Local heroes going to Turino
Christine Nesbitt of London, Ontario will dawn the red and white for Team Canada, competing in the 1000-metre, 1500-metre, and pursuit speed skating races.
Joe Thornton, the pride of St. Thomas Ontario, will skate with the National Hockey League (NHL) stacked Men's hockey team.
Originally born in Melbourne, Australia and after growing up in London, Nesbitt was initially an elite-level short track speed skater but was forced to concentrate on long track speed skating when she was not accepted to McGill University in Montreal, the location of the short track program.
Nesbitt then decided to travel to Alberta and attend the University of Calgary to concentrate on long track speed skating.
Named the 2005 Long Track Speed Skating Rising Star, Nesbitt made the transition to long track faster than anticipated. A breakout performance at the Canada Post Single Distance Championships in late December 2004 and early January 2005 also raised some eyebrows. She won both the 1500m and the 3000m at the event, and subsequently claimed her spot on the Olympic Team.
To begin the 2005/2006 season Nesbitt finished 11 in a 1500-metre race on the Olympic track in Italy, and placed third in a 1000-metre event in Salt Lake City.
As the other local star of the ice, Thornton currently plays for the San Jose Sharks of the NHL and has enjoyed a successful six-year career so far, mostly playing for the Boston Bruins.
Thornton grew up in a suburb of St. Thomas called Lynhurst and attended high school at Central Elgin Collegiate in St. Thomas. He would later star for the Sault St. Marie Greyhounds of the Ontario Hockey League, and was drafted into the NHL as the first overall selection by the Boston Bruins in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft.
Thornton gained International playing experience with Team Canada when he helped lead them to a gold medal in the 2004 World Cup. In an article on NHL.com Thornton comments on what it means for an athlete to play for Canada.
“Any time Canada puts on the jersey, it's a big event,” Thornton said.
“Everybody gathers around to watch the games. Everybody watches, everybody cares, and everybody gets excited. It's life in Canada.”
Both Nesbitt and Thornton will hope to make Canada, and more specifically London, Ontario, proud during their time at the Olympic Games, and both will hope to bring home some hardware and reach the Olympic podium.