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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, February 18, 2010

Winter Olympics spoiler alert: Women's speedskating

AP National Writer

Article on women's speedskating medal round.

RICHMOND, British Columbia — Christine Nesbitt electrified the home crowd, turning on the speed over the final lap Thursday to claim Canada’s first gold medal at the speedskating oval.
Despite nearly tumbling face-first at the finish, Nesbitt lived up to her billing as one of Canada’s best hopes for gold by winning the women’s 1,000 meters by a mere two-hundredths of a second.
Nesbitt was more than a half-second off the pace with one lap to go, but she really turned on the speed over the last 400 meters to win in 1 minute, 16.56 seconds. She was pushing so hard at the end that she lost her balance, sticking out both hands to keep from falling.
It didn’t matter.
She looked up to see her time on the board, just ahead of Annette Gerritsen of the Netherlands, then nervously waited out the final pairing. The last two skaters failed to crack the top three, and Nesbitt realized she had won while coasting along the practice lane.
She grabbed a Maple Leaf flag for the victory lap and was serenaded by the Dutch band Kleintje Pils, which played “O Canada” and “We Are The Champions” while the crowd of more 7,000 rocked and rolled in a boisterous celebration the home fans had been waiting nearly a week to break out.
Nesbitt gave Canada its third gold medal overall.
Despite settling for silver, Gerritsen was giddy about her time of 1:16.58 — mainly, because she made it to the finish after taking a hard fall in the 500. The bronze also went to the Dutch, claimed by Laurine van Riessen in 1:16.72.
Canada nearly got two skaters on the podium. Kristina Groves skated in the final pair but just missed her second bronze, finishing fourth in 1:16.78. She was third in the 3,000, giving Canada its first speedskating medal of the games.
Now, the locals have the color they really wanted.
American Jennifer Rodriguez, who won two medals at the Salt Lake City Games, briefly held the top spot before dropping back to seventh (1:17.08). Teammate Heather Richardson also cracked the top 10 for the second time at these games, following up a surprising sixth in the 500 by finishing ninth in 1:17.37. The North Carolina native would have been higher if not for a near fall on the final turn; she dragged her left hand on the ice to regain her balance and lost valuable time.
The other Americans were far back: Elli Ochowicz 26th (1:18.33) and Rebekah Bradford 29th (1:18.78).