Klassen, Hughes shine at world championship qualifier

Cindy Klassen of Winnipeg capped a dominant performance by Canadian women as she cruised to the overall gold medal Sunday at the North American qualifier for the long track speed skating world championships next month in Sweden.

Klassen earned a four-race total of 159.723 points for first spot overall. She won three of the four races including Sunday’s 1,500. Clara Hughes of Winnipeg took the women’s 5,000 race and was second overall at 164.282 while Kristina Groves of Ottawa was third at 165.513.

Tara Risling of Medicine Hat, Alta., was fifth and Kerry Simpson of Melville, Sask., sixth. The top-six qualify for the worlds but there’s a maximum of four per country therefore Klassen, Hughes, Groves and Risling gain the Canadian spots.

In the 1,500, Klassen clocked 1:54.63 for first spot with Groves second at 1:58.95 and Hughes third at 1:59.45. In the 5,000, Hughes, third in the event at the Olympics last season, was the winner in 6:56.05 and Klassen second at 7:02.78.

In men’s competition, Canadians also gained four spots for the worlds however the Americans swept the medals in the overall standings with Shani Davis first at 152.711 points, Chris Callis second at 153.058 and K.C. Boutiette third at 153.204.

Steven Elm of Red Deer, Alta., was fourth at 153.812, Kevin Marshall of Coquitlam, B.C., the defending champion, fifth, Dustin Molicki of Calgary sixth and Mark Knoll of Regina seventh. The top-seven qualify for the worlds.

In the men’s 10,000, Boutiette was the winner in 13:44.18 with Molicki second in 13:46.02 and Elm third in 13:46.44. In the 1,500 Callis was first, Davis second and Marshall third.