Canadian Olympic speed skating threat Cindy Klassen has been selected as the 2005 Manitoba Female Athletes of the Year.

The Manitoba Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association also announced at its 50th annual awards dinner (Sunday) the selection of the Jennifer Jones curling foursome as the 2005 Manitoba Team of the Year, and recipients of the Maurice Smith Memorial trophy.

Klassen was named Manitoba's top female athlete for a third time, repeating her success of 2002 and 2003. Her achievements in 2005 were highlighted by winning a silver medal in speed skating's World All-round Championships. She was the world cup champion at 1,500 metres, and won gold medals in the 1,500 and 3,000 metres, and silver in team pursuit in the World Single Distance Championships. Klassen set world records twice in the 1,500 metres and once in the 3,000, and was on a world record-setting team in the pursuit. She was a natural choice as Canada's long track speed skater of the year.

Fehr capped off his junior hockey career with Brandon Wheat Kings by being selected as the Western Hockey League player of the year for 2004-05. He was the league's leading scorer with 59 goals, nine more than the next best player, and 52 assists for 111 points. He was a WHL first team all-star choice, and the leading playoff scorer with 16 goals in pacing the Wheat Kings to the league final.

The Jennifer Jones team from Winnipeg's St. Vital Curling Club won the Manitoba and Canadian Scott Tournament of Hearts Championships, winning the national women's curling title with a spectacular final shot in St. John's, Newfoundland. It was Manitoba's first victory in the Canadian championship since 1995. Jones went on to finish fourth in the world championship in Scotland.

Klassen was a near unanimous choice for the female honour on 45 ballots submitted by the Manitoba sports media, receiving 44 first choice votes and 224 points. Fehr was in a much closer race in the male category, with 15 first choices and 172 points, winning by 12 points over world 10-pin bowling champion Michael Schmidt. The Jones quartette was a decisive winner in the team category, with 37 firsts and 212 points.

First choices on the ballot received five points, and preferences move on a sliding scale down to one point for fifth, in voting on the five finalists in each category.

Klassen, Fehr, and the Jones team succeed paralympic swimmer Kirby Cote, jockey Todd Kabel, and the Brandon Wheat King midget hockey team to the top provincial athlete and team awards.

The other 2005 female finalists were speed skater Clara Hughes, who won the bronze medal in the World Single Distance Championships; Alana Miller, a gold medallist in the Pan American Squash Championships; Jennifer Saunders, Canadian singles and doubles racquetball champion; and swimmer Landice Yestrau, who won gold medals in the 50 and 100 metre backstroke events at the Canada Summer Games.

In addition to Schmidt, who won the Qubica/AMF 10-pin bowling world championship, the male finalists were Manitoba Bison hockey star Paul Deniset, who won the Canada West Most Valuable Player award; quarterback Nathan Friesen of the Winnipeg Rifles, the Prairie Junior Football Conference MVP; and golfer Garth Collings, Manitoba's Amateur golfer of the year for a third time.

The other four finalists in the team category were the Portage Terriers, Manitoba-Saskatchewan Anavet Cup junior hockey champions; the Manitoba under-17 football team, winners of the Canada Cup national championship in its division; the Winnipeg Rifles, the regular season first place finisher in the Prairie Junior Football Conference; and the Manitoba mid-amateur golf team, Canadian champions in that division for the first time ever.

The spinoff excitement created by the winning final shot by Jennifer Jones in the national Scott Tournament of Hearts was deemed to have the largest impact on the Manitoba sports scene in 2005, earning the Cactus Jack Wells Memorial Award.

Rick Dillabough, the public relations and marketing director for the Brandon Wheat Kings, received the Dallis Beck Memorial Good Guy award for exceptional service and guidance to the provincial sports media.

The late Moe Cartman, who served as sports editor of the Portage Graphic from 1979-92, was inducted posthumously into the MSSA Manitoba Media Roll of Honour, for outstanding commitment and dedication to regional sports coverage in the newspaper.

The MSSA Jack Matheson Award, created to provide financial support to sport media aspirants, was presented to Brenton Driedger, now enrolled in Creative Communications at Red River College and the University of Winnipeg.

F.M.I. -- Bob Picken,
MSSA Secretary.
E-mail - bponsport@shaw.ca