Christine Nesbitt's Official Blog

Clara’s Big Ride Blog

Clara Hughes is riding across Canada for mental health awareness. I was invited to join her for a day, and share my story of struggle with depression. Joining Clara and her team on the ride from Portage la Prairie to Winnipeg, was a great experience for me. However, I didn’t realize just how eye opening it would be until I was right there; participating, listening, and even suffering a little bit.

Riding with Clara, Peter (her husband), and Ina (her good friend and former cycling teammate/competitor) helped me grasp the magnitude -both physical and mental- of their pursuit across Canada.

I rode a mere 86km in three and a half hours, drafting the entire time, and for just one day. For the last 20 minutes of the ride, all I could do was focus on Ina’s wheel ahead of me; I was swerving a little bit, hoping Clara next to me wasn’t noticing. I counted the minutes that passed until we arrived. I had become very quiet. I was exhausted and I didn’t want to complain or say anything negative (as I had only ridden a few hours, not a few months like Clara and Peter, or a few weeks like Ina!). When we finished the ride, we were soaked from the pouring rain. We were tired from the headwind that accompanied us the entire 86km. I had jumped into their cross-Canada tour for one of their shortest days of riding. Some days they ride over 200km.

The sheer physical demand of this cross-Canada ride is unimaginable to me. Yet on top of being physically taxed, Clara is reaching out to everyone she comes across, day in and day out, a remarkable feat. Sharing and listening to all the ups and downs of Canadians’ struggles is powerful and compelling. I am so amazed by Clara’s pursuit of openness and healing I feel she promotes through her actions. As someone who has dealt with depression, I am thankful that Clara is strong enough not only to share her story, but also encourage others to do the same. I believe she truly is riding the stigmas associated with mental health.

On top of my one day of cycling, Clara gave me the platform to share, for the first time publically, my struggles. For two years after the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, I battled with depression.

For myself, I struggled to acknowledge my own depression. The stigma of mental health prevented me from realizing I needed help. I though I was just sad, even though I cried every day for two years straight. I became very isolated. It was difficult for others to be around me, and I knew it. I didn’t want others to be bothered by me, so I withdrew.

I was lucky to have sport; training and racing were huge in getting me through this time. I was also fortunate enough to have a group of people around me that encouraged me to get help. One of my friends knew of a good psychologist, and he organized for me to meet with her. Without his help, or the help of this psychologist, I don’t know how long it would have taken for me to move forward with my condition. Another friend had me over once a week to make dinner together, and watch comedies (laughter is the best medicine after all, isn’t’ it?!).

Clara also reached out to me. She invited me out to visit her, and cycle with her. It meant a lot to have these friends reach out and support me, even though I couldn’t fully recognize or express my appreciation for them at the time. My depression created a haze over my life, and it was hard to see all the good things people were doing to help me.

Clara’s Big Ride is inspiring to me. It brings hope. Clara is not only a person who has herself struggled with depression; she has been able to recognize it in other people and get help for them. I think this is why she is such a good representative of the mental health awareness in Canada—she has experience on both sides of these illnesses.

Thank you Clara for giving me the strength and opportunity to share my story.
May the wind be at your back for these last kilometers to Ottawa!





Follow Clara and Clara’s Big Ride:

twitter: @ClaraHughes_ and #ClarasBigRide #GrandTourClara

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My Side of TheStarkSide: My Friend Randy

Many stories, anecdotes and reflections have surfaced over the past days expressing the deep-rooted relationships that many Canadians were lucky to share with Randy. Like many of my fellow teammates and Canadian athletes, I am finding difficulty in precisely captivating the emotion towards how I feel about Randy’s passing.

As I read through the stories recently written about Randy, I reminisce of my own relationship that I have been fortunate to share with Randy. He really did care. His mission was centered on injecting purpose into his work, far beyond the ‘simplicity’ of results and medals.

Randy had the unique ability to create an environment where I genuinely wanted to share my story. I tend to shy away from most media requests; Randy’s visits and phone calls were ones I looked forward to. He made me feel as though the path I am on really means something. He saw purpose far beyond the often narrow focus of winning. He understood the grounding elements behind each athlete’s story and was able to share that in a way unparalleled by others.

My own special memories of Randy are simple. For instance, when passing him before my Olympic races in Vancouver, our eyes briefly connected, as he gave me a head nod. It felt like he was willing me along my Olympic journey. Another outstanding memory is when I received a package in the mail from him, containing Ghirardelli chocolate chips. During a visit, over tea and muffins, he told me he made the best chocolate chip cookies ever, and Ghirardelli chips were his secret ingredient.

Just this morning, I woke up to hear that I have been selected as the recipient of the annual Oscar Mathisen Memorial Award. This award represents the outstanding speed skating performance of the season. As soon as I read this from my twitter, I immediately thought of Randy, and wished I could share it with him. Just like this award is in memory of a great speed skating legend, Randy has become a legend worthy of memorial for his outstanding journalism, his humanitarianism, and his person.

It makes me smile to read the stories that are coming out about the quirky little things he did, the jokes he would tell, and the teasing he could laugh about. I know that more stories will continue to surface as we will never lose sight of the openness and friendship that Randy has sparked throughout the entire sporting community.

Thanks for being you.


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The Cup’s Journey Home

At the end of the racing season, you hope to see all your hard work paying off, as all the big events start taking place. This year I competed in 3 different World Championships, and sprinkled throughout these major events, I was racing the World Cup circuit.  At the end of the World Cup season, they award the skaters who have accumulated the most points, with prizes. This year, I was fortunate to secure the 1000m and 1500m titles, as well as the inaugural Grand Overall Champion at the Final World Cup in Berlin.  (I shared this honour with the men’s champion, Kjeld Nuis of the Netherlands)

It’s always exciting to win these titles, as the winners are given a giant silver trophy, with a pink streamer flowing from either side of the handles.  It’s pretty hard to miss, especially when you have to travel home form Europe with one!

I have returned from Europe with this Cup before, and it makes for one awkward, heavy, carry-on piece! This year, I asked my physio, Paul Hunter, my sports psych, Derek Robinson, and my teammate, Alex Boisvert-Lacroix, if they could take one home for me, as they were heading home after Berlin, before the Worlds in the Netherlands.

It’s an annoying thing to carry around, through airports with connections, but they were great, and enthusiastic.  Even sending me a bit of a photo diary of the journey!  I hope you have a few giggles like I did! Enjoy 😉

Thanks guys!

Posted in Essent ISU World Cup, General, On The Road, World Championships | 2 Comments

Sharpening My Pencil

Sharpening my pencil.
These are the words that my coach, Xiuli Wang, used to describe what these World Cup races in Salt Lake City are for. I had to keep that in mind today, after my 500m and 1000m races.

This is the first big competition in over a month, and although I’ve been feeling good, it’s hard to tell what that will translate into, at a high level of racing.

I’m really happy with my 500m today. I had a really good start, for me, in fact my best ever (10.67), and didn’t feel like I was running those first 100 metres (like I normally do)! I was able to build good speed in the first corner, and skate the rest of the race pretty well. I skated one of my fastest laps ever, from my fastest start ever. So, of course I’m thrilled to come away with a new personal best of 37.59!

I was really excited and nervous to race the 1000m today. I felt calm and confident before my 500m, but after racing that time, I started thinking a lot about the 1000m World Record. I tried to bring my focus back to the technical elements, and execution of the race, but that WR was still taking a bit too much attention in my mind. Needless to say, I didn’t get a World Record!

Although I didn’t race a perfect race, and I didn’t break my teammate’s (Cindy Klassen’s) World Record, I tied my fastest time ever. On one side, I was disappointed, because I didn’t start (in the first 200m) as quickly as I have been this year, and I think I should have had a faster first lap. But on the other side, this is exactly why I’m doing these races. I need to remember that I’m using these races to “sharpen my pencil” for the World Sprint Championships next week in Calgary.

I have been skating consistently well in my 1000m races over the last couple of years, and after having a good 500m race today, my coaches and I decided that it’s a perfect place to wrap up this weekend. I’m heading home to Calgary tomorrow morning, in preparation for next week! I’m looking forward to it, and I hope my pencil will be sharp!


Posted in Essent ISU World Cup, On The Road, World Championships | 3 Comments

World Class Wall in Astana, KZ


Looking back on some photos of this fall, I rediscovered a cool one. Here, in Astana Kazakhstan, I was thrilled to see the world records posted, with our women’s Team Pursuit record included!

Posted in Essent ISU World Cup, On The Road, Random Photos | 1 Comment

Home after the Fall World Cups

I got up this morning at 3am. Not the best sleep in I’ve ever had, but I love these first few mornings after getting back from Europe, when I give in to jetlag at 8pm, and wake up super early. There’s so much to do when you get back. I always feel so productive and excited. It’s my first time washing my clothes in a washing machine in a month, and I can’t wait to put some cozy, warm clothes on when I pull them out of the dryer.

My house is quiet, except for when the rumble of the heater comes on, and it’s snowy, peaceful, and quiet outside. That means it’s time to get some work done—school work. I’ve missed a month of classes, and there’s a lot to do. I’m taking a break now though, just thinking about the last month on the road.

It was a long trip, for only three competitions. But I still managed to fit in 15 races in just 9 total days of World Cup races. I’m pretty happy with how things went. Every weekend it seemed I improved, and that builds a good foundation of confidence, as well as knowledge—knowledge of my abilities and of my potential, both mentally and physically. I’m looking forward to the rest of the season, though I will be fully embracing this little mid-season rest.

But it just makes me reflect on my month, and how much I love what I do. I love speed skating. I must confess, that I can really get stuck in my own bubble. However looking outside, I feel so inspired by the people around me. I’m so lucky to do what I do, and I hope that I can inspire those who inspire me too.

I just want to say thank you to everyone who’s following what I do. There is a lot of work both on and off the ice, and it is the work of a great network that has gotten me this far. I hope I can demonstrate how hard work and passion pay off, and I can’t wait to get going again in January, and see what I can do.


Posted in Essent ISU World Cup | 5 Comments

The 2011 Fall World Cups

Ready for the Challenge

The 2011 World Cup season has begun and includes three stops: the first at Chelyabinsk, Russia; the second at Astana, Kazakhstan; and the third at Heerenveen, Netherlands. These locations are so distant from each other that a lot of traveling is required. Lounging in airports, other energy-draining challenges and long flights await, but good things come to those who are patient.

Our flight from Calgary to Chelyabinsk included stops at Frankfurt and Moscow with the total travel time being about 36 hours. The time zone difference between Calgary and Chelyabinsk is 13 hours, so we also needed a few days to adjust our internal clocks. Chelyabinsk is a very nice city with a good market which some of us visited. A photo posted on my Twitter page (@CNezzy) also demonstrates winter has come to the city! Now to the World Cup races.

Chelyabinsk World Cup

On Saturday morning the ice at the oval was a little slow, perhaps because of the cold weather. My first race was the 1500m and surprisingly the adrenalin was not flowing as it should. Nevertheless, I medalled (silver) but it was clear I had things to work on. Sunday brought more success, winning both the 1000m race and the Women’s Team Pursuit with Brittany Schussler and Cindy Klassen.

The first World Cup meet is a competition that always brings our strengths and weaknesses into focus and my performance certainly can be improved — of course that is a priority for all of us. So the next week provides time to work on some of these before the second World Cup competition next weekend.

Astana World Cup

On Podium for 1500m with Claudia Pechstein and Ireen Wust. photo by S. Filippov

The team headed to Astana, Kazakhstan immediately after Chelyabinsk. The ice at the Alau Oval was to my liking, as was our entire week in Astana. My first 500m on Friday was OK but the 2nd 500m race on Saturday morning was much better. It gave me confidence to go out hard and fast in the 1500m race. It was my fastest 1500m start ever and I was able to hold on during the last lap to win the race and set a track record as well. I have been experimenting with the starts for the 1500m and decided to try a very fast start this weekend. It worked this time!

The 1000m race on Sunday was very satisfying. I started fast and had an excellent first full lap (27.3 sec) which I think sealed the win and helped greatly in setting the 1000m track record. I have enjoyed the week and the city of Astana. I hope we can return to race again to the Alau Oval. Now on to Heerenveen!

Posted in Essent ISU World Cup | 4 Comments

Terry Fox Run!

Christine on the Podium after Receiving her Olympic Gold Medal, Vancouver, 2010

I wasn’t alive 31 years ago, when Terry Fox ran his Marathon of Hope, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been an inspiration to me. For me, Terry stood for following what you believe in, and working hard for what you want to achieve. But most importantly, I believe he stood for hope. He gave hope and inspiration to so many people, and never seemed to lose it himself. I’ve seen first hand (particularly these past few days, in my involvement with the Terry Fox Foundation) how he still gives hope and inspiration to so many people affected by cancer. It’s truly amazing to see. He’s still helping people to overcome their challenges.

This Sunday (the 18th of September), come have fun and support a great cause. Participate in the Terry Fox Run. You’re contribution and energy will only help others, and you don’t know what positive effect you can have if you are helping—no matter how insignificant you may think your contribution to the cause will be. The Terry Fox Run is more than funding cancer research, it’s about providing hope and support to the people suffering from the disease, as well as the families and friends of those who are afflicted.

See where you can join the fun:

See you there!

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Exciting Nomination!

I just wanted to write a quick note about how excited, and honoured I am to be selected as a finalist for the Women’s Sports Foundation’s 2011 Sportswoman of the Year Awards.  

I had a great 2010-2011 season, and I’m grateful and appreciative of the support and recognition.  It’s amazing to be thought of with such respect, and along side some pretty impressive women!  I’m also thrilled to be able to represent speed skating, hopefully helping to give speed skating more exposure to the rest of the world!

Check out the facebook link to vote (for me!): In case this link does not work, the address is:

And if you don’t have facebook, you can email your vote to:

I’ll be writing in soon with some updates on this summer!

All the best,


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Last Season, New Season

Looking back over the last year - photo by Chris Bolin

As I sit here on the train back to my hometown of London, after visiting my brother in Kingston, I find myself watching the countryside drift by, and it got me thinking about these past twelve months, and all that has happened throughout them.

Truthfully, I’ve been reflecting on the past season since the day after it ended, March 15th. But now that my new training season is underway, and my first training camp is quickly approaching, I’ve been looking at setting my goals for the upcoming year.  Setting new goals is a very personal experience for me. It always starts with reflecting on my past season; where I started, the struggles and obstacles I encountered, how I responded to those struggles and obstacles, and then evaluating how successful I was.

Now, I have to say the last season was really difficult for me. I experienced challenges I had never encountered, and a few that I had. Given all that I went through, I am amazed how I was able to achieve many of the results I have in the past twelve months.

I started the season reluctantly, with a severe lack of motivation, and that was something I had never experienced. You see, motivation is not usually a problem for me. I love to challenge myself, and I truly believe in ‘mind over matter’.  I’m someone who enjoys the process, and takes joy and inspiration from it. So to lack that motivation — it was completely foreign.  Of course I knew I had just experienced an emotional and stressful Olympics in my own country, but I did not understand how, and why this was affecting me.

My lack of desire was strengthened by a long transition period in our sporting federation after the Olympics; my coach (Marcel Lacroix) had retired, and I was not sure which direction my skating was going to take me. I then followed that up with getting t-boned by an SUV, and fracturing my right arm, thus furthering my lack of motivation. Although, this allowed me to secretly enjoy chilling out for a couple more weeks, I also lost the little fitness I had started to regain…

The fall rolled around, and I still struggled with motivation and my arm, although I now had direction in my skating, thanks to my new coaches (Xiuli Wang and Mark Wild). But you know the saying bad things come in threes? Well, I learned first hand, that’s completely not true. I wish they only came in threes! I soon felt my initial post-Olympic struggles trivial to the realities ahead of me.  The loss of very treasured people to both me, and my family, as well as the loss of our 17-year-old puppy, Howi, (who was everyone’s favorite family member) were hard to deal with. I found my only escape and release from my emotional state was training, and in a strange way, that eventually led me back to my motivation (or at least my stubborn determination!).

Fortunately, there were no more big obstacles that I encountered throughout the season, but much of the time, one or many of these obstacles shadowed me, and I must admit I was not always in the best of moods. I had a lot of patient and understanding people around me.

When I reflect on what was a difficult year for me, I can see that I have been successful, in many ways, even beyond my skating, strengthening friendships and family, as well as broadening my perspectives. I find new strength in myself, and after an emotionally and mentally tough year, I’ve realized I have the right people around me to continue moving forward. I feel inspiration in so many more places than I had before, and that inspiration can be hidden in the most unlikely of places.

I’m looking forward to the coming season, and all the challenges ahead. My goals might not be written on paper yet, fully discussed with my coaches, or even fully formed in my head, but the three of us know where we’re going; building toward new heights, ultimately in February of 2014.  But the small goals need to be set and achieved along the way. Most important are my friends, family and teammates that have always been there to help, and to offer a good laugh too!  I know I’m lucky to have the support, and I could not have attained much without them the past year(s!). Motivation isn’t a problem this year, and I’m ready to challenge myself, and bring it when the time comes for the gun to go off.

Now, back to the pretty Ontario countryside, and Otis Redding soulfully serenading me over the rhythm of the train. Good times!

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