Kristina Groves Wins the Bronze in the 3000m

Richmond, 14 février 2010 (Sportcom) - Canada won its first medal in long track speed skating, Sunday, as Kristina Groves (Ottawa, ON) skated to a bronze medal in the 3000m event. Groves skated the distance in a time of 4:04.84. Czech skater Martina Sablikova, ranked second in the world in the distance, won gold in 4:02.53, while German Stephanie Beckert took silver in 4:04.62.

Clara Hughes (Glen Sutton, QC), Team Canada’s flagbearer for the opening ceremonies, took fifth place in 4:06.01, and Cindy Klassen (Winnipeg, MB) finished 14th in 4:15.33.

Groves had to wait for the final two skaters to complete their race before knowing if she had won the third Olympic Winter Games medal of her skating career.

“I was there waiting for the last two skaters to finish, and I didn’t think my time would be good enough for a medal. In the last straight, I thought to myself that Daniela (Anschutz Thoms; Germany) would be faster than me, but finally it was determined by hundredths of a second. I was in shock; it was a fantastic moment!” exclaimed Groves, who beat the German by only 3 hundredths of a second.

Groves, 33 years old, was a model of consistency during her race; after the first four laps, the Ottawa native was only 13 hundredths of a second off from Sablikova’s time - the eventual gold medallist who had skated earlier. Nearing the end of the race, Groves came out of the last corner slightly behind Beckert, with whom she was paired, but was nontheless able to out-skate the German by 22 hundredths of a second.

“Stephanie (Beckert) has one of the best finishes and I kind of expected her to be there. In the last corner I thought that maybe she wouldn’t be, but there she was. It’s all a part of racing and she had a really great performance today. As for me, it was the best race I could have had,” Groves commented; her previous best performance in the distance at World Cups has been third place.

Clara Hughes was also thrilled with her fifth place in a time that put her at only 1.17 seconds from the podium.

“It was one of the best 3000m races of my life. The crowd was incredible and I heard them during Cindy’s race. I said to myself that I’m not going to feel that again after the Games are over. In the corners, I just wanted to dance on my skates – it was just incredible,” explained the athlete who resides in Glen Sutton, Quebec.

“Now, I can hardly wait until my next race! Quick, give me five more laps to skate! I’m really happy for Kristina; she’s the real deal as an athlete – she concentrates on the right stuff and she knows what excellence is. Her medal sets the tone for the team, and there are still so many great things to come!” enthused 37 year-old Hughes, who will take to the ice again February 24th to defend her Olympic title in the 5000m event.

With her 14th place finish, Winnipeg’s Cindy Klassen felt as though she had acomplished what she set out to do, “I wanted to give the best of myself, and that is exactly what I did,” commented Klassen after the event. She still holds the World Record for the distance in a time of 3:53.34.

Monday, the men will take to the ice for the 500m long track sprint events; Canada will be represented by Jeremy Wotherspoon, Michael Ireland, Jamie Gregg and Kyle Parrott.

Photos from the event are available at: http://inuksuk.speedskating.ca/media/media-gallery.cfm?albumID=18

Her medal will be awarded during the victory ceremony this evening at BC Place.

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Written by Sportcom for Speed Skating Canada