Sport Shorts: Blistering Winter Sport Action

Carving Up Ice in Calgary: The Canadian ladies speed skating team sure knows how to entertain a home crowd. Christine Nesbitt (London, Ont.), a leader all season, won gold on Sunday in the 1,000 metres – her third straight World Cup win in the event. Then she teamed with Ottawa’s Kristina Groves and Winnipeg’s Brittany Schussler to win gold in team pursuit. Not only did they win, but they set a new world record of 2:55.79. That’s not all: Nesbitt won silver in the 1,500 metres on Saturday, second to Groves, who captured gold. Schussler was a close fourth. Groves also missed bronze in the 3,000 metres by 4-100ths of a second.

On the men’s side, Denny Morrison (Fort St. John, B.C.) led the charge with two bronze medals in the 1,500 metres, as well as silver in team pursuit with Montreal’s Mathieu Giroux and Regina’s Lucas Makowsky. Edmonton’s Jamie Gregg won his first career World Cup medal, a bronze in the 500 metres. Of note: Jeremy Wotherspoon skated in his first race since breaking his arm a year ago – and won his 500-metre ‘B’ division World Cup event.

Tearing Up Slopes in Lake Louise: Despite John Kucera’s season-ending leg injury, the alpine team proved its mettle overall at “home” in Alberta. After last week’s success in men’s super-G, placing first, fourth and fifth, the ladies carried momentum over the weekend. Veteran Emily Brydon (Fernie, B.C.) won two downhill medals, silver then bronze, on Friday and Saturday. Teammate Britt Janyk (Whistler) finished fourth and 10th in those same races – two of six top-10 finishes from Canadian skiers other than medals won. Needless to say, there was reason to cheer for Canadian fans watching the action in Lake Louise.

Tossing Rocks in Edmonton: The Canadian Curling Trials are underway here, as the country’s top curlers compete for an Olympic berth in 2010. It is a round-robin format before the playoffs, which begin Friday. Early winners on the women’s side include teams led by Amber Holland (Kronau, Sask.), Crystal Webster (Calgary), Kelly Scott and Cheryl Bernard. On the men’s side, there were early victories for teams led by Kevin Martin, Glenn Howard, Kevin Koe and Randy Ferbey. For peak drama, tune into the women’s final on Saturday at 6 p.m. MT and the men’s final Sunday at 1 p.m. MT. For more:

Performing on Skates in Tokyo: Canada’s best ice dance duo proved why again at the Grand Prix final in Japan. Tessa Virtue (Ilderton, Ont.) and Scott Moir (London, Ont.) won the silver medal in the last major event before the Olympic Winter Games. Joannie Rochette (Ile-Dupas, Que.) finished fifth in ladies singles.

Sliding in Italy, Part I: Skeleton athletes had some wild and excellent rides in Cesana, Italy. A trio of medals illustrates what they are capable of in Whistler next February. Jon Montgomery (Russell, Man.) won gold on Friday while Jeff Pain (Calgary) won bronze and Mike Douglas (Toronto) finished fourth. Later in the day, Mellisa Hollingsworth (Eckville, Alta.) nabbed bronze. This season so far has looked bright for our skeleton sliders.

Sliding in Italy, Part II: On Sunday, Lyndon Rush (Humboldt, Sask.) drove his four-man bobsleigh crew to a bronze medal at a World Cup in Cesana, Italy. It is a bright and surprising finish, as Rush had finished 13th in the two-man race on Saturday. Pierre Lueders’ (Edmonton) crew of four settled for 10th place after a difficult second heat. On Saturday, Helen Upperton (Calgary) and Jenny Ciochetti (Edmonton) finished fourth, the best of four top-nine finishes for Canadian two-man sleds.

Bombs Away for Biathletes in Sweden: Jean-Philippe Le Guellec (Shannon, Que.) had a great showing in Östersund, Sweden. On Thursday he had his best individual finish ever at a biathlon World Cup, finishing 10th in the 20 km race. Saturday, he didn’t bat an eye and finished 12th in 10 km sprint. His skis were “bombing away,” he said. Le Guellec is progressing fast and is far and away the top men’s medal threat for Canada. On the ladies side, Zina Kocher (Red Deer, Alta.) was top for Canada in finishing 34th in the7.5 km sprint. On Sunday, the men’s team relay of Le Guellec, Brendan Green (Hay river, N.W.T.), Robin Clegg (Ottawa) and Jaime Robb (Edmonton) finished 14th.

A Luge Medal in Germany: The all-Calgary men’s luge team of Alex Gough, Sam Edney and brother tandem of Chris and Mike Moffat won their second straight medal – this time a bronze – in the team competition in Altenberg, Germany. Unfortunately, this event is not yet an Olympic sport. The top individuals for Canada were Meaghan Simister (Calgary) in 10th spot and Sam Edney (Calgary) in eighth position. Edney continues a breakthrough season, after a career-high fifth last week, and he couldn’t have picked a better season.

Crawford Lifts the Team in Germany: Olympic cross-country champion Chandra Crawford lifted the spirits of her team by blasting to 12th place in the 800-metre sprint in Dusseldorf, Germany. She needed a top-20 World Cup result to qualify for the Olympic Winter Games after not competing for a year with injuries. The team will look to feed off her energy in coming races.