Gold & silver again for Canada speed skating World Cup

Canada won the gold medal in the women’s pursuit and Cindy Klassen of Winnipeg added a silver in the women’s 1,500 metres Sunday to conclude the first stop on the long track speed skating World Cup circuit.

In the 2,400-metre pursuit, a new official event on the 2006 Olympic program next year, the Canadians with Klassen, Clara Hughes of Glen Sutton, Que., and Kristina Groves of Ottawa took the gold in three minutes and 05.49 seconds.

The U.S., followed with the silver in 3:05.69 and Japan was third in 3:06.51 out of 14 countries. The race is similar to the team pursuit event in track cycling with two teams starting at opposite ends of the oval.

"I felt we were the team to beat," said Hughes, who raced the pursuit as well in track cycling and provided some tactical strategies. "We can put out three very strong skaters. We’re pretty excited about this being an Olympic event. We’ll definitely be a top gold medal contender."

In the women’s 1,500, Jennifer Rodriguez of the U.S., took the gold in 1:57.02 while Klassen followed in 1:57.35 and Chiara Simionato of Italy was third in 1:57.84.

"I had a lot of problems with the corners," said Klassen, the world all around champion two seasons ago who returned late last season after missing most of the winter with a serious arm injury. "I felt like I was losing speed. It’s something I definitely need to work on for next week."

Kristina Groves, the 3,000-metre winner on Saturday, was fourth in 1:57.96, her best ever international showing at the distance.

In the group 2 race, Kerry Simpson of Melville, Sask., was ninth, Clara Hughes of Glen Sutton, Que., 14th and Brittany Schussler of Winnipeg 17th.

In the men’s 5,000, all the Canadians raced in the group 2 seeding. Arne Dankers of Calgary was third, Jamie Ivey of Ottawa 18th and Denny Morrison of Fort St. John, B.C., 23rd.

On Saturday in the women’s 3,000, Groves and Hughes finished 1-2.
The second stop on the circuit is next weekend in Berlin.