Klassen earns silver in 1,500 to nearly clinch World Cup crown

World champion Cindy Klassen of Winnipeg won the silver medal in the women’s 1,500 metres Saturday at a long track speed skating World Cup and is on the cusp of earning the distance’s overall crown.

Anni Friesinger of Germany took the gold in two minutes and 01.35 seconds at the outdoor venue under seasonable temperatures. Klassen, who won Canada`s first all around world title in 27 years last weekend in Sweden, was second in 2:02.70 and Jennifer Rodriguez of the U.S., was third in 2:02.84.

Klassen was paired in her race with Renate Groenewold of the Netherlands who placed 10th.

``It was a very hard race,`` said Klassen, 23, who won the first four World Cup 1,500 races season. ``I had a very good start but I just died at the end. I felt the conditions were good and I was comfortable but I just had a hard time. I was really up for the race and excited about it. I wasn`t lacking motivation because of what happened last week. ``

Kristina Groves of Ottawa, fourth all around at the worlds last week, was eighth, Clara Hughes of Winnipeg 13th and Tara Risling of Medicine Hat, Alta, 19th.

In the World Cup standings, Klassen leads with 430 points which is 100 more than second place Claudia Pechstein of Germany with one race remaining. Each victory is worth 100 points but Klassen is sure to register at least four points if she competes in the final event March 7-9 in Heerenveen, the Netherlands.

``I plan to race as hard as I can from here on in to the end of the season,`` said Klassen, who is excited about being so close to her first career World Cup title.

In the men’s 5,000, Olympic champion Jochem Uytdehaage led the Netherlands to another medal sweep clocking 6:39.93. Bob de Jong was second in 6:41.82 and Carl Verheijen was third in 6:42.39.

No Canadians were in top-seed of 20 skaters. In the B group, Mark Knoll of Regina was third, Steven Elm of Red Deer, Alta., seventh, Philippe Marois of Charlesbourg, Que., 14th, Tyler Johnston of Calgary 18th while Arne Dankers of Calgary was disqualified.

Meanwhile in Obihiro, Japan, at an international junior competition, Shannon Rempel of Winnipeg won the silver medal in the women’s 500 while Brittany Schussler of Winnipeg was fourth.

In the men’s 500, Jay Morrison of Fort St. John, B.C., led the Canadians in seventh while Justin Warsylewicz of Regina and Morrison were seventh and eighth respectively in the men’s 3,000.

The competition is a tune-up for the world junior championships next weekend.

The competitions in Japan and Italy end Sunday.