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Schussler down, but not out

Winnipeg skater misses medal in second event, has 2 races remaining

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Brittany Schussler races during the 1,000-metre speedskating race at the Sochi Winter Olympics Thursday.

ADRIAN WYLD / THE CANADIAN PRESS Enlarge Image

Brittany Schussler races during the 1,000-metre speedskating race at the Sochi Winter Olympics Thursday.

SOCHI, Russia — Brittany Schussler is going to have a lot riding on her race this Sunday.

Schussler knew she was in tough to medal in her first two races this week, so finishing off the podium again Thursday wasn’t a surprise. But there’s no disputing she’s running out of medal opportunities and now has only the 1,500-metre event remaining to try and grab an individual medal.

 Schussler will also race for Canada in the team pursuit.

A difficult day on the track for the 28-year-old Winnipegger in the women’s 1,000-metre speedskating event Thursday left her in 30th spot, almost four seconds off the podium.

Schussler said her race was better than her last few days of practice but it was nowhere near good enough to have her in the hunt.

Hong Zhang of China won the gold medal in a time of 1:14.02. Denmark’s Irene Wust won silver and the bronze went to Denmark’s Margot Boer.

Schussler finished with a time of 1:18.53.

"I struggled a little bit with my speed work the last couple of days. That was a better race than the last couple of days but it wasn’t great. I’m a bit disappointed. But it was a step in the right direction," she said. "There are still a couple of days until the 1,500-metre, so hopefully I can have a bit more jump in my legs on Sunday."

Schussler has been planning all along to use the first two races of her week, the 3,000-metre and the 1,000 to set her up for her best distance, the 1,500 metre.

"There’s nothing that is glaringly wrong. I feel like technically I’m good and mentally I feel good. I feel that was just a good race. I’m at the Olympics and I want to have an Olympic-level race and that’s not what that was," said Schussler. "When the 1,500 rolls around I want to get off the ice and be able to say that was an amazing race and not just a good race."

Schussler wanted to use the 3,000-metre to figure out the ice and plan her route while she wanted to find some speed in the 1,000. She still seemed uncomfortable following her trip on Thursday.

"I’ll spend the next couple of hours being disappointed and wishing I had more jump out there. I want to go into the 1,500 a little more relaxed. I’ve got an extra 500 metres to show my strengths and I’ve just got to have fun with it," she said.

"I’m not entirely sure what’s been missing. Whether it’s nerves getting to me or tension in the muscles. Everything is good. There’s just a little jump that’s missing."

A disappointing race can prey on an athlete’s mind and they need to be confident and relaxed to achieve their best results. Schussler was clearly agitated after the 1,000 metre but she said it would have to be a temporary funk. She still has work and an opportunity in front of her.

"I can set this aside. It’s never easy. To be honest, I had an awful practice on Wednesday. This is a big step in the right direction. I went from awful to not great and now I’ve got two days to get to amazing," said Schussler.

"There are a ton of girls that can medal. The field is so, so good right now. There are over a dozen girls that can win. All I can do is go out there and skate low and skate solid."

 

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @garylawless

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About Gary Lawless

Gary Lawless is the Free Press sports columnist and co-host of the Hustler and Lawless show on TSN 1290 Winnipeg and www.winnipegfreepress.com
Lawless began covering sports as a rookie reporter at The Chronicle-Journal in Thunder Bay after graduating from journalism school at Durham College in Ontario.
After a Grey Cup winning stint with the Toronto Argonauts in the communications department, Lawless returned to Thunder Bay as sports editor.
In 1999 he joined the Free Press and after working on the night sports desk moved back into the field where he covered pro hockey, baseball and football beats prior to being named columnist.

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