Jamie Gregg wins bronze in opening World Cup speed skating race
Christine Nesbitt warms up for stronger events to come
Canadian Jamie Gregg got off to a strong start to the World Cup speed skating season in Calgary on Friday with a bronze medal performance in the men's 500 metres.
The Edmonton native and 2010 Olympic gold medallist Mo-Tae Bum both crossed in a time of 34.52 seconds, with the South Korean later taking second spot when the measurement was made to 1,000ths of a second.
"Every World Cup, including this one, in Calgary I've won a medal so I'm happy with that," Gregg said. "They've all been bronze so I want to make it a little better than that. I'm always getting beat out by the thousandths in Calgary."
Ronald Mulder of the Netherlands, part of the final pairing of racers, won in a time of 34.41 seconds.
Gregg's bronze was Canada's lone medal on the first day of racing. He lost speed to the South Korean on the turn coming into the home stretch at the Olympic Oval.
"You go into the year not really knowing who is going to go fast," Gregg said. "You see some times, but now everyone is at the World Cup and everyone has peaked, so you get to see where you are in the world a little bit.
"To know that I'm up there with even a less-than-ideal race, it gives me lots of confidence going forward."
William Dutton of Humboldt, Sask., finished in 15th place.
Christine Nesbitt of London, Ont., got warmed up with a 13th place showing in the women's 500. The Canadian champion's specialties are in the 1,000 and 1,500.
Marsha Hudey of Regina, making her World Cup debut, came in 19th.
The race was won by Sang-Hwa Lee of South Korea in 36.91 seconds, just the third time the 37-second mark has been broken. Lee set the world record at the distance on the Calgary Oval in January, a time of 36.80.
Veterans Jenny Wolf of Germany and Beixing Wang of China were second and third, respectively.
Denny Morrison of Fort St. John, B.C., got a taste of top-flight competition again, coming in 11th in the 1,500. Morrison broke his fibula midway through last season, and suffered a rib injury recently that caused him to miss the Canadian team trials.
"If you would have talked to me after a race like this in 2009, I would probably hardly have talked to you guys and probably would be freaking out throwing things around the change room," Morrison told reporters.
"That doesn't help anything. All I can do is be motivated by what happened and use that to help me focus on what I need to do next. I don't think it's discouraging. I know I have a few things to work on. I'm pretty sure I can identify what they are already."
Regina's Lucas Makowsky was 17th in the race won by Koen Verweij of the Netherlands. Shani Davis of the United States was second on the track he's spent time training on, with Dutchman Kjeld Nuis in third.
The two Canadian women entered in the 3,000 metre A final skated together in the first pairing. Brittany Schussler of Winnipeg crossed 13th, with Ottawa's Ivanie Blondin in 16th place.
The speedskaters can gain Olympic berths for their countries at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, during the first four World Cups of the 2013-14 season.
Canada could take a maximum of 20 skaters to Sochi in February, but has to earn those spots through World Cup results.
Claudia Pechstein of Germany won the race in 3:59.04. The 41-year-old Pechstein has five Olympic gold medals among her collection of nine overall, but also served a lengthy suspension in her career for doping.
Martina Sablikova of the Czech Republic, last year's World Cup season champ at the distance, was second. Ireen Wust of the Netherlands was third.
The competition continues until Sunday.
Both the men and women will race in the 500, 1,000, and 1,500 and the team pursuit. In addition, the men's 5,000 will take place.
-- With files from The Canadian Press