Christine Nesbitt confident about future
Long track speed skater Christine Nesbitt looks back on an impressive season. After numerous World Cup and World Championship medals she is now considered to be a definite podium candidate in the middle distances, and in that sense this past season really was a break-through season for her. With a new season just around the corner, Nesbitt reflects on this past year and looks forward to the future.
By Jolanda Abbes
Last season could hardly have started out any better for Christine Nesbitt, 22, with several podium finishes in both the 1000m and the 1500m at the Fall World Cups in Heerenveen, Berlin and Moscow. These results may at the time have come as somewhat of a surprise to her, but they also gave her confidence for the rest of the season. “I am very happy with how I performed last year, and in particular at the start of the season. I knew that I would be stronger than in the Olympic year, but I didn't know that I would be winning medals every World Cup. I was very surprised to finish in the top 3 for the first three World Cups in everything: 1000m, 1500m, Team Pursuit. It was really exciting and it gave me a lot of confidence.” Of course, after such a good season it should come as no surprise it has also been a more than satisfying year in terms of the goals she had set for herself at the start of the season: “My goal was to be more consistent than the previous season, and I did that, and I surpassed my goals in terms of best performances.”
However, not only did Nesbitt have a great start of the season, she also managed to earn several medals at the World Championships at the end of the season, including a bronze medal in the 1500m at the World All-round Championships in Heerenveen and a gold medal in the Team Pursuit at the World Single Distances Championships in Salt Lake City. Still, the end of the season was not as satisfactory for her as the start of the season: “I am very happy with a lot of my racing at the end of the season. I think I could have done better in some situations, such as the 1500m in Salt Lake City, and maybe the 1000m too. But mostly, it was a good year, and I'm happy with it. I don't think that I finished the season as well as I started it though, but still I am very proud of my World All-round 1500m medal, and of course my first World Single Distances individual medal.” At the World Single Distances Championships she won a bronze medal in the 1000m.
Despite the great results both at the beginning and at the end of the season, this past season has not been all roses for Nesbitt. Around Christmas she was getting tired, which hardly could have come at a worse time. At the end of the year she competed at the Canadian Single Distances Championships with only one goal in mind: to qualify for the World Sprint Championships. However, she failed to do so, which was a huge disappointment for her. But fortunately she was able to pick herself up again very fast: “I was upset when I didn't qualify, but all I needed was a bit more rest. Also, I focused a little more on my technique, because it had begun to deteriorate. Once I did that, I began to skate well again.” As a result, she did manage to qualify for the World All-round Championships at the Continental Qualifiers, shortly after the national championships that had been so disappointing for her.
Even though Nesbitt looks back on a very good last season, the highlight of her career dates back a bit further, to the (Olympic) season before that: “I have been fortunate that since I started long track, I have improved a lot every year, so I have many highlights. But I was thrilled to make the Olympic team, in all the events I wanted to participate in. And of course winning an Olympic medal was great as well. I was quite disappointed with my 1000m race at the Olympics though.” At the Olympics Nesbitt finished seventh and fourteenth in the 1500m and 1000m and she was a silver medalist in the Team Pursuit. All in all, Nesbitt looks back on a lot more highlights than disappointments in her already impressive career: “I have been happy with most of my racing. I feel as though my disappointments have come in training, where I haven't skated as well as I wanted, or I'm not aggressive enough.”
After the good season she had, expectations are high now. To do at least as well as last year, a clear path has been outlined and many new goals have been set for the upcoming season. “I want to be even more consistent than last season, and I would like to start skating more 3000m’s, and make a splash in that. I want to improve my 500m, so I can qualify for and race at the World Sprint Championships, and the only distance I did not skate a personal best in last year was the 1500m, so I would like to improve that a lot as well!” If and when all these goals are met, the time will have come to look ahead even further, to the Olympic Games in Vancouver in 2010. “I want to keep improving every year until the Olympics, including that season, and know myself so well that I can push all my limits when I need to, and not leave anything behind when I am done racing.” Eventually this should lead her to qualification on the Olympic team.
When it comes to her chances of being an Olympic athlete again, Nesbitt is optimistic: “I think that if I skate the way I skated last season, and keep improving the way I have been since I started long track, I will qualify in the 1000m, the 1500m, the Team Pursuit, and maybe more?!” Obviously, she enjoys skating the middle distances: “I love racing the 1000m, because when I am in really good shape, I don't get tired at the end of the race. But I also enjoy the 1500m because it is so challenging, both physically and mentally. I think it is the hardest race of all. Actually, I don't really hate any distances, but I am not comfortable at all racing 5000m’s yet. And sometimes I can get frustrated with the 500m because the race ends before I can start thinking, so sometimes I forget all my technique.”
Although she feels confident that she has a realistic shot at qualifying for the Olympics, Nesbitt admits to the fact that the current Canadian women’s team is really strong. As a result, qualifying will not at all be easy or self-evident: “I think the women's team is stronger than ever. We have many girls really starting to improve in the long and short distances. I think it will be more difficult to qualify for the Olympics for everyone. I think my toughest competitors will be Cindy Klassen and Kristina Groves. Both girls can perform well in just about any distance!”
But of course 2010 is still far away, and a lot can happen between now and then. The first focus now will be on the upcoming season, and Nesbitt is looking forward to that a lot: “I am excited for this season to start. I am never quite sure whether I am better in the 1500m or the 1000m, so it's always fun for me to see how I do in both races. I think I am already much stronger than last year, so I can't help but being more confident about my racing abilities.”
Photo credits: Stephanie Lambert