Winnipeg’s Cindy Klassen wins gold medal at speed skating World Cup

A fast start propelled Cindy Klassen of Winnipeg to the gold medal in the women’s 1,500 metres on Saturday to open the second stop on the long track speed skating World Cup circuit. A few hours later, Klassen also helped Canada to gold in the women’s pursuit.

In the 1,500, Klassen clocked one minute and 56.81 seconds for her sixth career individual World Cup victory and her first win since an arm injury that cost her almost all of last season. It was also a track record.

"It felt great," said Klassen, the all around world champion two seasons ago. "There were some things I wanted to work on and I achieved some goals."

Anni Friesinger of Germany was second in 1:57.14 and Jennifer Rodriguez of the U.S., third in 1:57.16. Klassen, second last weekend at the World Cup opener in Norway, raced in the second to last pair against Sabine Volker of Germany, who was fifth.

"I had a pair that was really fast and that helped push me," added Klassen. "But by the end I was having trouble moving my legs. Starting fast takes it toll but it’s certainly worth it."

Kristina Groves of Ottawa was ninth. In the group 2 race, Clara Hughes of Glen Sutton, Que., was first and will move up to the main draw next week while Kerry Simpson of Melville, Sask., was ninth and Brittany Schussler of Winnipeg 17th.

In the women’s 2,400-metre pursuit, Canada won gold for the second straight weekend clocking 3:03.07 with Japan second in 3:03.21 and the U.S., third in 3:04.58. Skating for Canada was Klassen, Groves and Hughes. Canada 2 with Simpson, Schussler and Michele d’Amours of Ste-Foy, Que., was 10th.

The pursuits are now official Olympic events and debut at the Turin Games next year.

"We tried some different things by changing the order and it worked out well," said Klassen. "Obviously there’s still some things we need to fine tune but it went really well. We’re still trying to figure out our best strategy for this event."

There was more good news for Canada in the men’s 5,000 as Arne Dankers of Calgary finished eighth in a personal best 6:27.60. It was also his best –ever international result at the senior level.

"I was really motivated for this race," said Dankers, 10th at the world championships last year. "I did really well last week in the Group 2 race so I thought I could put something good together again. My first three laps were very quick and I was able to hold on much better than last week."

In the Group2 race, Denny Morrison of Fort St. John, B.C., was 17th and Jamie Ivey of Ottawa 28th.

Competition ends Sunday.