When Olympic speed skating champion Christine Nesbitt says training’s going much better than last year, you tend to pay attention.
After all, here are a few highlights of Nesbitt’s post Vancouver campaign: Winning the world sprint title for the first time, gold in the 1,000 metres at the world single distance championships, silver medal at the world allround championships, and the 1,500 metre World Cup title.
“It was all right,” said Nesbitt, a fierce competitor, who’s probably still smarting over her fifth-place finish in the 1,500 metres at the 2011 world single distance championships in Inzell, Germany.
She’s vowed to herself that she’ll never be off the podium in the 1,500 at that event again.
She’s also got an entirely different approach to the upcoming competitive season.
“Of course, I still want to go out and win and win by as much as I can,” said Nesbitt in a recent phone interview. “I still have that fire in me. But I want to use it when it’s appropriate, not just go out there and be like a psycho spazz and waste all my energy.
“I want to win when I want to win, not when other people expect me to win or think that I should win. I can try and win every race the whole year, but it’s kind of unrealistic and who cares. I want to win what matters to me.”
What matters most to her is defending her world sprint title Jan. 28-29 in Calgary. She’d also like to win the world allround title. It’s an incredible double that’s been done just three times, in the 1980s by East German Karin Enke-Kania, who it was later revealed in Stasi documents was doping.
Nesbitt feels much fitter than she did last season – when training was limited by among other things getting hit by a car while cycling – but the biggest change is in her mental outlook. She certainly sounds more at peace.
“It may not look different from the outside looking in, but just my perspective has changed a bit,” said Nesbitt. “I like it. I just want to see what I can do and stop comparing myself to different seasons because I’m a different skater than I was even last year I think.
"Every year, you grow up a little bit, you change a little bit and now I think I’m ready to change my approach on skating, what really matters. It’s so nice to be there and enjoy what I’m doing so much and have such a good group of people around.”
She went to Australia for her cousin’s wedding in the summer and enjoyed the team’s training camps in Colorado Springs and New Mexico. She also visited her brother in Kingston, Ont., and enjoyed a walking tour there and went out on training runs with the intent to get lost and have to find her own way back.
“It’s refreshing. It’s like using a different part of your brain. You feel so much healthier.”
If she’s sounding Zen-like, that could be the influence of her coach Xiuli Wang.
“I call her my Zen master sometimes,” said Nesbitt.
You can check out Nesbitt's own blog here.
(The picture is of Nesbitt getting the royal treatment after winning the world sprint title in the cradle of speed skating, Heerenveen, the Netherlands. They know how to celebrate a champion. Photo by AFP/Getty images)