The pressure was on and Christine Nesbitt delivered.
With a time of 1:16.56, Nesbitt won Canada’s third gold medal of the Olympic Games with a victory in the 1,000 metres at the Richmond Oval on Thursday.
Nesbitt was the overwhelming favourite heading into the race, having won all four World Cup events held this season. She also is the defending world champion.
Skaters from the Netherlands rounded out the podium, with Annette Gerritsen winning the silver medal and Laurine van Riessen taking the bronze.
Ottawa’s Kristina Groves, bronze medallist in the 3,000 metres on Sunday, just missed out on a second bronze with a fourth-place finish.
Through 600 metres, the 24-year-old Nesbitt was actually over half a second behind the pace set by Gerritsen. But where most women in the competition slowed down, Nesbitt did not, and a strong final lap put her 0.02 seconds ahead of the Dutchwoman.
“Today, really, I didn’t have a great race, it was just physically I could feel I wasn’t skating well, but I just kept going to the end, and it paid off,” the London, Ont. native told CTV.
Gerritsen came back to win the silver after a disappointing race in the 500 metre event two days ago. A medal contender in that race, she fell in the first run and finished in last place.
Winnipeg’s Shannon Rempel and Brittany Schussler also raced in the 1,000 metres, with Rempel finishing in 21st place. Schussler, who as an alternate at the 2006 Olympics in Turin did not actually compete, finished in 25th place in her first Olympic race.
Norway’s Hege Bokko set the early pace with a time of 1:17.43. Skating in the second of 18 pairs in an event where the top competitors race in the latter half, the 18-year-old was not expected to be a factor. She ended up in 10th place.
Both Nesbitt and Groves have another strong shot at a medal in the 1,500 metres on Sunday. It could be a battle between the Canadians for gold, as Groves is the World Cup leader with Nesbitt sitting just below her in second.