Her Ninth Gold Medal of the Season is an Olympic One

As the bell sounded for the last lap, Christine Nesbitt was 0.54 seconds behind the best time. Then, the speed skater seemed to slip into another gear, flung her arms like pistons out in front and bore a look of sheer determination. The Richmond Oval crowd willed her on with a deafening roar. Nesbitt took the inside lane on the home stretch and blew over the finish line – 0.02 seconds ahead of the leader, her rival, Annette Gerritsen of The Netherlands.

Nesbitt’s time of 1:16.56 would stand up and with that, she became Olympic champion in the 1,000 metres. She is Canada’s third 2010 gold medallist. Teammate Kristina Groves also skated hard and finished a hair off the podium, in fourth spot overall, her best result of the season. Shannon Rempel was 21st, Brittany Shussler 25th.

“I can’t believe it’s the Olympics, it doesn’t feel real,” said Nesbitt. “I can’t believe it, it was way too close for comfort.”

Nesbitt has been masterful in the 1,000 metres the past two seasons. She is 2009 world champion and 2008-09 World Cup overall champion in the event. In the 2009-10 World Cup campaign, she has collected eight gold medals overall, including four 1,000-metre victories. Never once did she lose this event, a trend she has now carried right into the big show at the Olympic Winter Games. That ninth gold medal this season is a big one.

She was born in Melbourne, Australia (her mother, Judith, is Australian) and grew up in London, Ontario. Nesbitt took to speed skating at age 12, and at 18 switched to long track from short track. In 2005, she was named Speed Skating’s Rising Star. The next year she made her Olympic debut in Turin, helping the women’s team win silver in pursuit. She finished 14th in the 1,000 metres. From then until now, Nesbitt won five World Championship medals, and entered the Games as a gold medal favourite. Though such a position is inherently pressure-filled, Nesbitt said that the supportive crowd drove any nervousness away.

Still to come for Nesbitt is the 1,500 metres and team pursuit, events in which she has won four gold and three silver medals this season.