Clara Hughes earns second straight World Cup speed skating gold

Clara Hughes of Glen Sutton, Que., won the gold medal in decisive fashion in the women’s 3,000 metres in World Cup long track speed skating action on Sunday.

It was Canada’s third gold this weekend. On Saturday, Cindy Klassen of Winnipeg won the women’s 1,500 and Hughes, Klassen and Kristina Groves of Ottawa combined forces for gold in the 2,400-metre pursuit, which is a new official Olympic event for next year’s Games.

In the women’s 3,000, Hughes buried the field clocking a personal best and track record four minutes and 03.14 seconds as she raced in the final pair of the day. Renate Groenewold of the Netherlands was second in 4:05.18 and Anni Friesinger of Germany third in 4:06.28.

"I had a feeling I could skate a personal best today," said Hughes, a former cyclist who is Canada's first-ever Olympic medallist in both the Winter and Summer Games. "The key was to stay very relaxed, keep my position and let the speed take care of itself. There was nearly a world record in the men’s 5,000 yesterday (Saturday) so I didn’t underestimate the speed I could attain on this ice."

Klassen was sixth in 4:08.15 and Groves, last week’s winner, was seventh in 4:08.33.

In the Group 2 race, Tara Risling of Medicine Hat, Alta., was ninth and Michele d’Amours of Ste-Foy, Que., 19th.

In the men’s 3,200 metre pursuit, Canada missed a medal by 0.27 seconds earned finishing fourth in 3:49.44 with Arne Dankers of Calgary, Steven Elm of Red Deer, Alta., and Denny Morrison of Fort St. John, B.C..

"We have the depth to challenge for an Olympic medal in this event," said Canadian national coach Neal Marshall of Calgary. "We were only three seconds behind the winners (the Netherlands) who have three big stars skating together. There’s definitely strategy involved in this event especially at the start and finish of the race."

In the men’s 1,500, Jay Morrison of Fort St. John, B.C., was 19th in the main draw. In Group 2, Dankers was ninth, Denny Morrison 12th, Elm 14th and Jason Parker of Yorkton, Sask., 27th.

The third stop on the World Cup circuit is next weekend at Heerenveen, the Netherlands.