Clara Hughes wins bronze medal to conclude successful worlds for Canadian speed skaters.

Clara Hughes of Winnipeg capped a brilliant Canadian performance at the long track speed skating world single distance championships on Sunday with the bronze medal in a close women’s 5,000 metres race.

The Canadian team finished the competition with six medals (two gold, a silver and three bronze) which equals its best ever showings set in 1998 and 2004. The Netherlands led the medal parade with nine medals including three gold while the Germans and Norwegians also earned six medals to set the stage for some thrilling battles between the top four countries at the Olympics next year.

In the women’s 5,000, Anni Friesinger led the Germans to a 1-2 finish clocking 7:18.32 with Olympic champion Claudia Pechstein second at 7:18.67 and Hughes, the defending champion a close third at 7:19.17. Kristina Groves, third in the, 3,000 on Friday, was paired with Friesinger and placed fourth in 7:24.99.

“I’m extremely happy considering all I’ve been through this season,” said Hughes who was floored last month with the flu and bronchitis. “I certainly didn’t feel anywhere near my best today, those two weeks of missed training really affected my preparation. I’m really excited with how I finished the race. The start of my race is where I lost a lot of time on the leaders.”

Cindy Klassen of Winnipeg, a double world champion this week with wins in the 1,500 and 3,000 metres, was an impressive fourth in the 1,000 metres clocking 1:18.75 a half second off the pace set by winner Barbara de Loor of the Netherlands.

Christine Nesbitt of London, Ont., was 17th.

Also on Sunday, Steven Elm of Red Deer, Alta., Arne Dankers of Calgary and Justin Warsylewicz of Regina were fifth in the men’s 3,200 metre pursuit while Elm was 16th in the men’s 1,500.

Canada’s also won silver in the women’s pursuit on Saturday with Hughes, Groves and Klassen and Jeremy Wotherspoon of Red Deer took the bronze in the men’s 500 on Friday.