Klassen wins double gold at speed skating World Cup

Cindy Klassen of Winnipeg continued her torrid start to the 2002-2003 World Cup long track speed skating season with gold medals Sunday for a victory in the women’s 1,500-metres and first spot in the all around standings.

Klassen has now won five medals this season after two World Cup events including three gold. Last weekend she earned her first career victory on the circuit placing first in the 1,500. It was also a big weekend for Clara Hughes of Winnipeg. The cyclist turned speed skater won her first career World Cup gold on Saturday in the 3,000.

It was also a rare happening that a World Cup competition for the middle and long distance skaters didn’t include at least one gold medallist from Germany in women’s competition. And it occured at the first international event at the Gunda Niemann Stirnemann Oval built last year in honor of Germany’s superstar speed skater who retired last winter.

In the 1,500 race, Klassen, 23, clocked 1:58.47 for the win. Double Olympic champion Claudia Pechstein of Germany was second in 1:58.50 and world champion Anni Friesenger of Germany third in 1:59.51. Klassen’s pair Jennifer Rodriguez of the U.S., was fourth in 1:59.56.

Klassen dominated the all around standings, the first time such an event was held in World Cup competition. In addition to her victory in the 1,500, she also posted the fastest times in the 500 and 1,000 and was third in the 3,000. The 500 and 1,000-metres only counted towards the all around score and were not medal events.

The top-20 in the all around standings will be awarded bonus World Cup points.

Hughes, who won her first career World Cup race Saturday in the 3,000, was 14th in the 1,500 and placed 17th overall. Kristina Groves of Ottawa was 10th in the 1,500 and took 13th overall. Tara Risling of Medicine Hat, Alta., was 22nd.

Pechstein was disappointed not to win for the 5,000 fans that packed the oval each day but paid tribute to the Canadians.

"They've improved enormously -- that's not a big surprise. But (the fact) that Cindy Klassen has gotten so strong over the short distances makes me uneasy," said Pechstein.

Hughes says the Canadians are no longer intimidated by the German and Dutch skaters.

"After Cindy’s win last weekend in the 1,500 we all think a little differently in terms of the possibilities," she said. "The Germans use to dominate so much and it seemed the battle was for second or third. And now it’s like we’re thinking we got a shot to win this thing. So Cindy’s performances are a big breakthrough, and now with my victory, it’s pretty incredible for us."

In the men’s all around standings, Derek Parra of the U.S., took the gold medal while Kevin Marshall of Coquitlam, B.C., was eighth, Dustin Molicki of Calgary 13th, Steven Elm of Red Deer, Alta., 14th and Arne Dankers of Calgary 30th.

The third stop on the circuit is next weekend in Heerenveen, the Netherlands.