VANCOUVER (Reuters) - One might think Canada’s Christine Nesbitt would be giddy after winning gold in the women’s 1,000 meters on Thursday, but the speedskating perfectionist was conflicted.
“I cannot believe I won,” Nesbitt told reporters after a furious charge to the finish allowed her to overcome some panic at the start of the race and eventually claim Canada’s third gold medal of the Vancouver Games. “Mixed emotions.”
Nesbitt was 19th fastest after 200 meters and ninth best with a lap to go before her final kick put her two-hundredths of a second ahead of Dutch silver medalist Annette Gerritsen.
“It wasn’t pretty, I know it wasn’t pretty,” said Nesbitt, the world champion and runaway World Cup leader who is unbeaten over the distance this season. “I was fortunate to win Olympic gold. It was probably the worst 1,000 I’ve done this year.”
The analytical Nesbitt, 24, said she felt very nervous before the race and let it affect her.
”As soon as the gun went off, I panicked off the start. I had a slip after two or three steps. I wasn’t quite right. In a sprint it’s hard to get out of that. It can be tough to fix. I was almost trying too hard, maybe.
“I’ve had races like that, where I panicked, and I think that’s why I was able to skate a good last lap because I’ve been there before and I was able to still finish strong.”
While Nesbitt did not look happy after her time was posted, the home crowd thundered its approval when she edged into first place with one pair still to skate.
“I did not think it would be good enough,” said Australian-born Nesbitt, whose family left Melbourne for Canada when she was an infant. “I wasn’t that happy. I knew the worst I could do was bronze, but I didn’t come here for the bronze.”
When compatriot Kristina Groves and Margot Boer of the Netherlands failed to beat her time, the first Canadian speed skating gold medal of the Vancouver Games was hers and the Richmond Olympic Oval erupted in noise.
The jubilant crowd serenaded her with affection. Her Dutch speedskater boyfriend Simon Kuipers stopped her by the barrier during her victory lap and planted a kiss on her mouth.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper congratulated Nesbitt over the telephone, telling her “the country is thrilled, and we’re all very proud,” his representative said in a statement.
The Dutch oompah band Kleintje Pils, which has been providing music at the venue, burst into the Canadian national anthem and the crowd went wild.
“I don’t know how to react,” said Nesbitt, who vowed to study tapes of her race to fix her problems before the 1,500 meters race. “I don’t feel like I won Olympic gold.”
Editing by Frank Pingue