Hughes wins gold, Klassen grabs bronze

Winnipeg speedskater Clara Hughes won gold in the women's 5,000 metres on Saturday and Cindy Klassen claimed bronze to become Canada's most decorated Olympian.

For Winnipeg's Klassen, it's her fifth medal of these Games and sixth of her career. For Hughes, it's career medal No. 5. Runner Philip Edwards and short-track speedskater Marc Gagnon held the previous Canadian record with five Olympic medals.

"It is awesome. The Games have been unbelievable," said Klassen.

Hughes trailed three-time defending champion Claudia Pechstein of Germany for 10 of the 12_ laps before coming back with a devastating kick to win in six minutes 59.07 seconds. Pechstein finished 1.01 seconds behind while Klassen struggled through the final two laps and finished in 7:00.57.

"What I think is most satisfying is just to have overcome that pain," said Hughes. "That pain that's so intense that you feel like you're going to die. That's what it was, that's what I wanted, and that's what I got."

Ottawa's Kristina Groves finished sixth.

After the race, an exhausted Hughes collapsed to the ice face down. Klassen then passed her a Canadian flag and a weeping Hughes took a victory lap.

"To hear them play We are the Champions and (Hughes) skating around, that's such a special moment, and it's great for Canadians," said Klassen.

Hughes, 33, also has two bronze in cycling from the 1996 Summer Games, a bronze in speedskating at the 2002 Games and a silver with Klassen in the team pursuit in Turin.

"This whole time here I had to remind myself that I am a speedskater now," said Hughes. "And I should not be afraid to be the best in the world."

Klassen, 26, won a medal in each of her events in Turin; bronze in the 3,000, silver in the team pursuit and 1,000 and gold in the 1,500. She also won a bronze medal in Salt Lake City.

Klassen also broke the Olympic record she shared with Russia's Lidiya Skoblikova for most medals by a female speedskater in one Games.

Klassen has been on a roll of late.

She set four world records last year, won eight World Cup events and was named Canada's female athlete of the year.

Klassen, a Winnipeg native who lives and trains in Calgary, raced in four events at the 2002 Games at Salt Lake, winning bronze in the 3,000. She just missed the podium in the 1,500 and 5,000, finishing fourth in both races.

Klassen, who didn't take up speedskating until she was 18, excels at several sports. She participated in the 1994 Commonwealth Games in women's field lacrosse, was a member of the women's national junior hockey team in 1996 and competed in the in-line speed skating competition at the 1999 Pan Am Games.

Long-track speedskaters have won eight medals for Canada in Turin, seven by the women's team.


Source: Canadian Press