Speed Skating

Chris Iorfida - Monday Feb. 10, 2014 22:29 ET

Christine Nesbitt looks to establish momentum in 1st Sochi race

Sang-Hwa Lee has been unbeatable at 500 metres this season

Christine Nesbitt, seen training on Feb. 7.
Christine Nesbitt, seen training on Feb. 7., has battled adversity the past year. (Matt Dunham/Associated Press)

Christine Nesbitt gets her first taste of competition at the Sochi Olympics Tuesday at the Adler Skating Center.

The two-time Olympic medallist is not a medal contender in the 500 metre competition, but like skaters such as Shani Davis of the United States, she uses it to work on her speed and technique while preparing for her two signature events at the middle distances.

The London, Ont., native will try and repeat as 1,000 metre Olympic champion on Thursday. She also is expected to compete in the 1,500 and team pursuit later in the Games.

Nesbitt has endured her toughest season since coming to prominence as one of the world's best. After dominating in 2011 and 2012, she's failed to reach the World Cup podium this season, with younger skaters from the United States, Russia and the Netherlands skating to the fore.

As for the 500 metre race, should anyone but Sang-Hwa Lee win, it would have to be considered one of the biggest upsets in any sport at the Sochi Games.

The South Korean is the defending Olympic champion, has won every 500-metre World Cup race this season, and set a new world record on four occasions in 2013. Lee's record now stands at 36.36 seconds.

The closest second place finisher to Lee in any race, Beixing Wang of China, was nearly 3-10ths of a seconds back.

The Olympic competition will be determined by the fastest combined time over two races. The medal podium could look very similar to the Vancouver Games competition, where Lee was followed by Jenny Wolf of Germany in second, and then Wang.

Local favourite Olga Fatkulina of Russia and American Heather Richardson will be among those looking to win their first ever Olympic medal. Both skaters are also considered contenders to succeed Nesbitt as 1,000 metre champ later this week.

Nao Kodaira, part of Japan's silver medal group in team pursuit in Vancouver, could also be in the mix in Tuesday's 500-metre race.

Marsha Hudey of White City, Sask., Anastasia Bucsis of Calgary, and Danielle Wotherspoon-Gregg of Red Deer, Alta., also step to the line for Canada in the competition.

Bucsis is one of a small number of openly gay athletes in Sochi. Despite the gay rights issue being a flashpoint at these Winter Games, the 24-year-old has stated she won't get involved in any kind of protest activity or gesture.

Wotherspoon-Gregg competes a day after her husband, Jamie Gregg, finished 11th in the men's 500. The 33-year-old is the sister of 1998 silver medallist Jeremy Wotherspoon.

Hudey, 23, is marking her first ever Olympic appearance.

You can watch the competition at cbc.ca/olympics beginning at 7:45 a.m. ET on Tuesday.

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