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Amateur sportsChristine Nesbitt is the athlete Canadians should know

Posted: Thursday, December 15, 2011 | 11:56 AM

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Speedskater Christine Nesbitt has absolutely obliterated her competitors in a campaign that saw her return from a car-bike accident in the summer. (Jerry Lampen/AFP/Getty Images)
Speedskater Christine Nesbitt has absolutely obliterated her competitors in a campaign that saw her return from a car-bike accident in the summer. (Jerry Lampen/AFP/Getty Images)

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Christine Nesbitt is the best in the world. The trouble is not enough Canadians know it.It was interesting to note during the deliberations over the Lou Marsh Award for Canada's athlete of the year that Nesbitt's exploits, as well as those of shot put giant Dylan Armstrong and show jumping star Eric Lamaze, had to be itemized and justified just as the resume of the eventual winner, figure skater Patrick Chan, was gone over with a fine-toothed comb.

Christine Nesbitt is the best in the world.

The trouble is not enough Canadians know it.

It was interesting to note during the deliberations over the Lou Marsh Award for Canada's athlete of the year that Nesbitt's exploits, as well as those of shot put giant Dylan Armstrong and show jumping star Eric Lamaze, had to be itemized and justified just as the resume of the eventual winner, figure skater Patrick Chan, was gone over with a fine-toothed comb.

The selection committee went through an education process that day and discovered that in Canada, where hockey icons are a given, one can also find the dominant athletes on the face of the earth in a variety of sports.

It's a double-edged sword because on the one hand, it's good to be reminded that all of this talent exists within our borders. The sadness is, for a great majority of Canadians, it's still a revelation.

Even so the, words of one national newspaper the following morning suggests the education needs to continue.

"So while it was an odd sort of a year, with hockey not a factor," the columnist wrote. "And a passel of interesting though not overwhelming candidates, Chan stood out in the voting of the Lou Marsh."

This is not entirely accurate.

Yes, it was strange that in Canada there was not an obvious hockey player to vote for this year.  And yes, Patrick Chan had an undefeated, shining, season that made him the frontrunner.  But Christine Nesbitt is also supremely qualified to be Canada's athlete of 2011, as are Eric Lamaze and Dylan Armstrong.

The best middle distance speedskater in the world for a second consecutive year, Nesbitt absolutely obliterated her competitors in a campaign that saw her return from a car-bike accident in the summer, which resulted in a fractured elbow and badly injured knee.

"I don't really think about the injury anymore," Nesbitt said in an interview this week from Calgary. "It can still interfere with things I do, but all in all, I am quite capable."

"Quite capable!"

That may be the greatest understatement in sport.

Nesbitt won three world championship gold medals in 2011. She grabbed the sprint title, the 1000-metre championship and was also victorious in the team pursuit. Add to the list a silver medal finish in the all-around world championships, which is almost unheard of for a skater in the shorter distances. Nesbitt is back at it again and firing on all cylinders as the new season is well underway. She's already claimed five gold medals in three World Cup events in Kazakhstan, Russia and Holland.

Rarely satisfied

Once again she is virtually unbeatable but, as is her trademark, she is rarely satisfied.

"It's nice to win, but ultimately, it is about being the best you can possibly be," she reflected, as she recharges for the resumption of the World Cup. "I think sport is a microcosm of life.  I am proud of my accomplishments, but often there is something to improve upon. I believe in my potential and I want to get as close to it as I can."

Nesbitt is only 26-years-old and just now entering the prime of her career.  She's already been the world champion many times over and has been an Olympic gold medallist.  Still, she craves the competitive environment that will lead her to the breaking of new barriers.

"I love people who put it all on the line," she said. "It's so inspirational and gutsy, and you get caught up in their moment. It's a great feeling to live that experience, whether it results in triumph or defeat. It's a nothing to lose attitude. I just love it."

Those sound like the words of someone who is more than "an interesting candidate." Those sound like the words of someone who believes she is quite clearly the best speed skater in the world and who also has the gumption to back up her claim.

It looks like Canada's "Red Rocket" on ice is about to reach new heights.

Let's hope that we'll all be paying a lot more attention.

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