SOCHI, Russia (AP) — Between their gold-medal performances at the 2010 Vancouver Games and the start of the Sochi Olympics, both Christine Nesbitt and Denny Morrison battled health problems.
Morrison broke his left leg in December 2012 while cross-country skiing, and Nesbitt was diagnosed with celiac disease but is fit again after switching to a gluten-free diet. Both Canadian skaters said Tuesday they believe they still have a shot at a medal on the Adler Arena oval.
Morrison, a team pursuit champion in Vancouver, will race the 1,500 meters and team pursuit. Nesbitt, the defending 1,000-meter champion, has a busier schedule with the 500, 1,000 and 1,500, as well as the team pursuit.
When Morrison broke his leg a few days before Christmas, Sochi wasn't the first thing on his mind. First he had to figure out how to seek help.
"I was stuck in the woods, kind of by myself," he said. "I had to get myself out of there."
Once he had reached a doctor, his mind returned to the main goal.
"Within two days I was focused on, 'What am I doing now to recover?'" he said. "The Olympics are still a ways away and I've got to prepare for those."
After a couple of months of rest he was back on the ice, skating in the world championships in Sochi so he could get a look at the future Olympic oval, where he admits he is an outsider for his first individual medal in his third games.
"It is such a competitive field now compared to six or even four years ago. And, at the Olympics, there is always someone who is going to come up and surprise you," he said. "You saw that in Vancouver, you saw that in Torino and I hope that this Olympics it will be me."
Nesbitt, who won the 1,000 in Vancouver, confronted her own health issues when doctors told her she had celiac disease. Sufferers don't absorb nutrients well and can get sick from the gluten found in wheat, rye and barley.
Avoiding gluten has helped her overcome the symptoms, but she is still working up to race fitness as her events approach.
Even fully fit, she faces tough challenges in the form of American skaters Heather Richardson and Brittany Bowe, and defending 1,500 champion Ireen Wust of the Netherlands, who is seeking to win gold at three straight Olympics — she triumphed in the 3,000 in Turin.
"It needs to progress quickly, but I think that's happening and I've still got time," Nesbitt said. "I'm a very competitive skater and I skate well usually when I need to so that gives me confidence that I can do something special at these games — or maybe a few special things."