One year ago, Canadian long-track speedskater Christine Nesbitt set the new standard in the women’s 1,000-metres at the Calgary Olympic Oval.
She thinks she can go even faster, and Calgary’s notoriously fast track might be the place to break the record again as the Essent ISU World Cup kicks off on Saturday.
Nesbitt set the world record here on Jan. 28, 2012, becoming the first woman to break one minute and 13 seconds when she blazed to a time of 1:12.68. That bettered the previous world record of 1:13.11 set by Winnipeg’s Cindy Klassen in 2006 on the same ice.
While Nesbitt said she won’t be focusing on setting another world record this weekend, she feels she is definitely capable of lowering the mark.
“Now that I’ve had time to train and adjust and reflect back on that race I definitely think there are technical things I can improve,” she said.
“I don’t know if I’m going to do it this weekend. I’m still really proud of that race. As I am using this weekend as a stepping-stone to world singles, I don’t want to get caught up in that. Last year it was a huge goal of mine to make a new mark on the world record.”
The 2010 Olympic 1,000 metre champion is also looking forward to get her first crack at the track that will be used at the 2014 Sochi Games in Russia. Sochi hosts the world single distance championships March 21-24.
“It’s one rehearsal for the Olympics and I want to have a good experience and feel confident and know that I can skate well on that ice,” Nesbitt said. “No one has skated on it except for the Russians for their World Cup trials. I didn’t look at the results but from what people have told me they were really slow times.”
The women and men will skate 500 and 1,000 events both Saturday and Sunday in Calgary.
Nesbitt, who will also race the 500 this weekend, has one World Cup victory in the 1,000 this season, coming Dec. 8 in Nagano, Japan. Nesbitt and rival Heather Richardson of the United States split the two 1,000s in Nagano and both skipped the final World Cup before Christmas the following weekend in Harbin, China.
Absent from the Oval ice will be Canada’s top men’s skater, Denny Morrison of Fort St. John, B.C. The 27-year-old broke his leg while cross-country skiing last month.
The injury halted a strong season for Morrison, who was leading the 1,000 standings after winning in Heerenveen, Netherlands in November and picking up a silver in Nagano.
Morrison said in December that he expects to be recovered in time to compete in Sochi in March. Morrison was not present at Thursday’s pre-race press conference.
Canadian sprint coach Mike Crowe said Morrison has begun putting weight on his leg and is riding a stationary bike.
“He’s still about four weeks away before we will test it on the ice,” Crowe said.
Other Canadian women competing this weekend are Anastasia Bucsis and Kaylin Irvine of Calgary, Kali Christ of Regina, Danielle Wotherspoon of Red Deer, Alta., and Shannon Rempel and Brittany Schussler, both of Winnipeg.
The men’s side features Alex Boisvert-Lacroix of Sherbrooke, Que., Tyler Derraugh of Winnipeg, Laurent Dubreuil of Levis, Que., William Dutton of Humboldt, Sask., Jamie Gregg of Edmonton, Philippe Riopel of Lachenaie, Que., and Gilmore Junio of Calgary.
Junio won his first individual World Cup medal in Nagano in December, a silver in the 500.
The weekend will also see four-time Olympic medallist Kristina Groves become the newest inductee onto the Olympic Oval’s Wall of Champions. The Ottawa skater captured a silver in the 1,000 and bronze in the 3,000 in Vancouver in 2010 and retired in September 2011.