Historic day for Canada! Klassen wins speed skating world title while Hughes takes gold in 5,000.

Olympic bronze medallist Cindy Klassen of Winnipeg became the first Canadian in 27 years to win the overall title at the world all around speed skating championships on Sunday while Clara Hughes of Winnipeg took the gold medal in the 5,000 metres.

Klassen, 23, finished third in the women’s 1,500 and 5,000 on Sunday to wrap-up the overall gold and wear the crown as the most complete speed skater in the world. She totalled 170.545 points. On Saturday she was second in the 500 and 3,000.

``This was the big goal of my whole season,`` said Klassen, who also has four World Cup wins this winter. ``I came through. I couldn`t have asked for more.``

Claudia Pechstein of Germany, second in both races Sunday, finished second overall at 171.144 and Daniela Anschultz of Germany was third at 173.633. Pechstein and Klassen were paired in the 5,000 finale. Pechstein was two seconds faster than Klassen but it wasn`t enough to catch the Canadian.

``I was really nervous before the 5,000,`` said Klassen. ``I was shaking. Claudia is such a great skater so I was worried. Luckily I could hang on a little bit and I came through first (overall). The 5,000 is the hardest distance for me. It`s not my favourite. But this was the last one of the year so I’m happy about that.``

Klassen was also second at the world sprint championships last month. It’s the first time in 15 years that a skater has won overall medals at both events in the same year.

Winnipeg’s Sylvia Burka is the only other Canadian woman to win the all around world title. That was in 1976. Klassen also now has 13 career medals at the all around worlds surpassing Burka who had 10.

Klassen’s victory highlights a remarkable performance by the Canadian women’s team at the competition held outdoors this weekend, a much different environment from the confines of the Calgary Olympic Oval where they train.

Kristina Groves of Ottawa enjoyed the finest moments of her career placing fourth overall after a fifth in the 5,000 and sixth in the 1,500 on Sunday.

Hughes continued to make a strong case that she is perhaps the greatest Canadian female athlete history with her golden performance in the 5,000. She smoked the field clocking 7:25.88. Pechstein was second in 7:29.50 and Klassen third in 7:31.39.

``The ice here was slow so that I may have given me an advantage,`` said Hughes, who finished sixth overall. ``You have to be really strong to get a good glide on this ice. I just loved the atmosphere of competing outdoors. Facing the elements is something I’ve done often in my cycling career.``

It’s the first time Canada’s ever won gold in the 5,000 at the worlds and the first individual distance gold medal since Burka’s 1,500 victory in 1976.

Hughes, an Olympic bronze medallist last year in the 5,000, also won bronze Saturday in the 3,000 . Her speed skating exploits are now comparable to her cycling achievements, which include two bronze at the 1996 Summer Olympics.

Tara Risling, 21, of Medicine Hat, Alta., signalled there’s still plenty of depth in the women’s program with a strong 13th place finish overall in her world championship debut.

Gianne Romme of the Netherlands won the men’s overall title.

Kevin Marshall of Coquitlam, B.C., a bronze medallist in the 500 Saturday, was 14th overall. Dustin Molicki of Calgary, seventh in the 1,500 Sunday, was 15th while Mark Knoll of Regina was 22nd and Steven Elm of Red Deer, Alta., 23rd.

Canada finished the competition with eight medals, also a best-ever performance at the event.