Shannon Rempel & Denny Morrison first victors at speed skating nationals

Shannon Rempel finished ahead of five-time Olympic medallist Cindy Klassen for gold in the women's 500 on Thursday while Denny Morrison took the men's 500 to open the Canadian single distance championships in long track speed skating.

In the women's 500, Rempel clocked 38.78 seconds in both 500 races for a combined time of 77.560 seconds. Klassen, racing for the first time this season, followed at 77.940 while Kristina Groves of Ottawa was third in 78.290. Both Rempel and Klassen are from Winnipeg and train in Calgary.

"I had two solid races so it was O.K.," said Rempel, coming off a gold and bronze medal performance at the last World Cup stop before the Christmas break earlier this month. "It sets me up good for the 1,000 tomorrow(Friday). Hopefully I can carry that speed for another lap. It's been a busy season for me with competitions and school. I'm just trying to stay relaxed when I race."

Klassen has been in the news this month racking up numerous athlete of the year awards after a sensational season in 2005-06 which included a record five medals at the Olympics. She did not compete at the fall World Cup races, taking some extra time to train in Canmore, Alta.

In the men's 500, Morrison took the title clocking 70.750 seconds over two races including a personal best 35.23 in the first race. Brock Miron of Calgary was second at 70.820 and Francois-Olivier Roberge of St-Nicolas, Que., third at 71.290.

One of Morrison's goals is to qualify later this season for his first career world sprint championships this January. He was on Canada's team at the world all around championships last year placing fifth overall.

"I'm a little surprised with my results today," said Morrison, from Fort St, John, B.C. "I had a great opener in my first race but what I'm most pleased with is my top end speed. I always like to set some goals at the start of the season and going to the world sprints is definitely one of them. I'm feeling very good for tomorrow's 1,000."

Competition continues through to Sunday at the Olympic Oval. Races start at 10 a.m. each day.

Thursday's results at the Canadian single distance championships in long
track speed skating:

MEN

500 (two-race combined time): 1. Denny Morrison, Fort St. John, B.C.,
70.750; 2. Brock Miron, Calgary, 70.820; 3. Francois-Olivier Roberge,
St-Nicolas, Que., 71.290; 4. Vincent Labrie, St-Romuald, Que., 71.580; 5.
Philippe Riopel, Lachenaie, Que., 71.990; 6. Matt McLean, Winnipeg, 72.270;
7. Jamie Gregg, Edmonton, 72.450; 8. Jeff Kitura, Langley, B.C., 72.640; 9.
Jay Morrison, Fort St. John, 72.980; 10. Kyle Parrott, Winnipeg, 73.200.

WOMEN

500 (two-race combined time): 1. Shannon Rempel, Winnipeg, 77.560; 2. Cindy
Klassen, Winnipeg, 77.940; 3. Kristina Groves, Ottawa, 78.290; 4. Christine
Nesbitt, London, Ont., 78.560; 5. Kim Weger, Regina, 78.970; 6. Krisy Myers,
Lloydminster, Sask., 80.330; 7. Brittany Schussler, Winnipeg, 81.100; 8.
Justine L'Heureux, St-Tite, Que., 82.340; 9. Tamara Oudenarden, Calgary,
82.590; 10. Nicole Garrido, Edmonton, 82.840.