Speed skating star CINDY KLASSEN has been selected as the 2002 Manitoba female Athlete of the Year.

Speed skating star CINDY KLASSEN and the superb Manitoba Bison defensive lineman ISRAEL IDONIJE (eye-DON-a-jay) have been selected as the 2002 Manitoba female and male Athletes of the Year.

The Manitoba Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association also announced at its 47th annual awards dinner (Sunday) the selection of DAVID HAMBLIN'S WORLD JUNIOR CURLING CHAMPIONS as the 2002 Team of the Year, and recipients of the Maurice Smith Memorial trophy.

Klassen won the women's honour on 44 ballots of the Manitoba sports media by the narrowest margin in history, 164 points to 162, over her speed skating compatriot, Clara Hughes. Balloting is tabulated on a preferential five points down to one point in voting on the five finalists in each category.

Klassen won the bronze medal in the 3,000 metres, and was fourth in the 1,500 and 5,000 metres at the Winter Olympics. She placed second overall at the 2002 World Speed Skating Championships, and won three consecutive World Cup 1,500 metre races in November to start the current season.

Idonije won the J.P. Metras trophy as the outstanding lineman in Canadian university football. He was a first team all-Canadian defensive lineman, recording nine sacks, and twice was named Canada West defensive player of the week in leading Manitoba Bisons to a first place regular season finish. He was selected to play in the East-West Shrine Bowl in January.

David Hamblin's team, composed of Ross Derksen, Kevin Hamblin, Ross McCannell, fifth player Doug Hamblin, and coach Lorne Hamblin, won the Manitoba Junior men's Curling Championship, the Canadian title in Summerside, P.E.I., and became only the second team from Manitoba ever to win the World Junior crown, with a 3-2 final victory in Kelowna, B.C., over Sweden.

Klassen and Idonije succeed the 2001 recipients Jennifer Botterill and Corey Koskie, who repeated as finalists, while Hamblin's curling team follows the Winnipeg Blue Bombers as the province's Maurice Smith trophy winner.

Hughes, who earned the Manitoba female Athlete of the Year distinction in 1996, won the bronze medal in the 5,000 metres at Salt Lake City. She became the first Canadian and second woman to medal in both Summer and Winter Olympics. She added a gold and a bronze medal last year in cycling at the Commonwealth Games.

Other finalists for the female award were Botterill, who had six points and was one of Canada's inspirational leaders in its gold medal women's hockey victory in the Olympics; Kathy Preston, who led Manitoba Bisons to a second straight national women's CIS volleyball crown; and Jennifer Saunders, who won silver medals in singles and as a member of the Canadian women's team at the World Racquetball Championships.

The male finalists were Todd MacCulloch, a role-playing center in New Jersey's run to the National Basketball Association final; Anola's Koskie, a two-time winner of this award (1999 and 2001), who was a key performer in Minnesota's runner-up finish to Anaheim in baseball's American League Championhip Series; Jacques DesAutels, the leading jockey at Assiniboia Downs with 99 wins including four stakes victories; and golfer Mike Keast, who won both the Manitoba Amateur and Junior men's Championships, and finished second in the Optimist Junior world golf event in Florida.

The four runners-up in the team category were the Sons of Italy, the Canadian Senior men's soccer champions; the University of Manitoba women's national volleyball champions; the OCN Blizzard, Anavet Cup champions and second to Halifax in the national Junior A hockey tournament; and the Manitoba women's five pin bowling team, a winner over Ontario in the stepladder playoff final of the Canadian championship held in Winnipeg.

The North American Indigenous Games were deemed to have the largest impact on the Manitoba sports scene in 2002, earning the Cactus Jack Wells Memorial Award. Frank McKinnon, the retired commissioner of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League, received the Dallis Beck Good Guy award for exceptional service to the sports media.

Adam Wazny, a second year journalism major in creative communications at Red River College, was the first recipient of the MSSA Jack Matheson Award to support sports media aspirants, and Keith McMahon, the television sports director for CKY News, was inducted in the MSSA Media Roll of Honor.


For more information, please contact

Bob Picken,

Secretary; MANITOBA SPORTSWRITERS & SPORTSCASTERS ASSOCIATION

Phone -- (204) 489-8642

E-mail -- bponsport@mac.com