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Olympic speedskating champion Christine Nesbitt announces retirement

06/04/2015 03:37 EDT | Updated 06/04/2016 05:59 EDT
CALGARY - It was never about the medals for Christine Nesbitt, although she won a lot of them during her speedskating career.

She chased the perfect race, which is why Nesbitt's celebrations seemed muted after her many achievements.

"It's great to win, but I never found true satisfaction," the Olympic gold medallist said Thursday after announcing her retirement.

"I'm a bad celebrator. Mine is this internal warm, nervous hug on myself. The way I've always improved has been hyper-critical of myself, which has hurt me, but it also allowed me to excel really quickly in the sport."

The 30-year-old from London, Ont., won 124 international medals during her 12-year career, including Olympic gold in the 1,000 metres in 2010.

Nesbitt broke a six-year-old world record in the distance in 2012 and also won a world title in it three times. Nesbitt, Kristina Groves and Cindy Klassen still hold the world record in the women's team pursuit. Nesbitt earned an Olympic silver medal in 2006 in the event.

Nesbitt was an interesting combination of a lioness "wanting to destroy my competition fiercely" when the start gun went off and a shy woman uncomfortable with attention when she crossed the finish line.

"I don't necessarily have the most magnetic personality and that's OK because it's just me and I'm an introvert," Nesbitt said.

"I'm really proud of what I've done and I have a great group of people around me and who do appreciate me and understand what I've gone through to get to the levels that I have."

Nesbitt was under immense pressure heading into the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver and Whistler, B.C., as she hadn't lost a 1,000-metre race in a year and a half.

"What stands out for me was how collected she was under that amount of stress," said Marcel Lacroix, who was her coach at the time. "She never cracked under the pressure even though it was extremely hard."

When she crossed the finish line in first place and one pair still to skate, Nesbitt cringed because she felt she hadn't skated her best. Her time held up, however, for Canada's first Olympic gold medal by a woman in the distance.

"She never raced to win, but she always raced to try to be the best and execute the perfect race," Lacroix said.

A consistent podium finisher, Nesbitt began to struggle in the months leading into the 2014 Winter Games. Years of skating counter clockwise around ovals and leaning into her left leg simply took its toll. She finished ninth in Sochi, Russia.

Nesbitt took this past season off from racing to rehabilitate her leg, but it hasn't recovered enough to train that hard again. She's just recently gone for runs of 30 minutes.

"I was at a point where I couldn't even be active for fun because my body was in so much pain," Nesbitt said. "I was concerned I wouldn't be able to have an active lifestyle after sport.

"The lingering injuries definitely contributed to my decision to retire, but I just feel like I've gotten a lot from skating and I've given a lot to skating. It's time for the next chapter."

Nesbitt is finishing her geology degree and works as an undergraduate research assistant at the University of Calgary.

"I've formed a good group of friendships outside of speedskating in the last year going to school," she said. "It was kind of like a little net to catch me after this retirement.

"I'm not retiring out of bitterness and I'm not retiring out of spite or anger or frustration or giving up. I needed to frame my retirement in a way that made me happy and made me realize how lucky I am and how much help and support I've had a long the way."

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