Two medals for Canada to conclude speed skating worlds

Clara Hughes and Cindy Klassen, both of Winnipeg, won medals Sunday while two-time Olympic champion Catriona Le May Doan of Saskatoon may have concluded her brilliant career at the world single distance championships which concluded the long track speed skating season.

"I can’t say 100 percent that today was my final race," said Le May Doan. "I want to go home and talk to the people who have supported me and see what my options are and see how they feel and how I feel. People who have been part of my career are important to me and I want them to be part of the final decision."

In the women’s 5,000 metres, Olympic champion and world record holder Claudia Pechstein of Germany was the winner in 7:04.52. Hughes provided a huge effort leading until the final two laps and capped a great season with silver in 7:06.31. Gretha Smit of the Netherlands was third in 7:06.34.

"I gave it everything I had, I Ieft my heart out on the ice," said Hughes, who also registered her first World Cup win this season. "It was tough. I tried to position myself well for the cross over laps and I raced well tactically. I think I took her by surprise but she had a bit more at the end. I’m completely satisfied."

Hughes won’t compete next season. She’ll focus on her cycling career in order to make the Olympic team for the 2004 Games. Hughes is the only Canadian athlete to win a medal at both a winter and summer Olympics. She hopes to return to the ice for the 2004-2005 season.

"I love skating and I’ll miss being part of the team," said Hughes. I’ve had so much fun this year."

Kristina Groves also put a nice polish on her best ever season finishing sixth in 7:17.38. Groves was also fourth at the world all around championships last month, and cracked the top-10 on a consistent basis this season.

"I’m very excited about my season," said Groves. "My career has been a slow steady climb with no major jumps or setbacks. I just hope to continue on that path. Doing better each time out is what matters to me."

In the women’s 1,000, Anni Friesinger of Germany snared her third gold this weekend clocking 1:16.85. Jennifer Rodriguez of the U.S., was second in 1:17.28 and Klassen, the world all around champion in February, rebounded from two-subpar results this weekend to win the bronze in 1:17.36.

Le May Doan clocked seventh. In 15-years with the national team, Le May Doan is the only Canadian athlete to successfully defend an Olympic title. She’s also won the 500 world title and the world sprint crown four times each. She is fourth all time in total World Cup wins for the women with 34 and second in 500-metre wins at 27. She’s a three-time 500-metre World Cup champion and took the 1,000 title once.

Le May Doan’s teammates were in a tribute mood.

"Catriona’s a class act," said Hughes. "She’s set such a great example for all of us. Nobody will ever fill her shoes."

"We’re very proud of her," added Groves. "She’s contributed so much to speed skating and sport in general in Canada. It’s inspiring to be around someone who’s had such an incredible career."

Shannon Rempel of Winnipeg, the world junior champion this year, was 11th in the 1,000.

In the men’s 1,000, Erben Wennemars of the Netherlands was the winner in 1:09.71, his compatriot Gerard van Velde second in 1:10.52 and Joey Cheek of the U.S., third in 1:10.94. Jeremy Wotherspoon of Red Deer, Alta., the 500 winner on Friday, has battled a bad back all week and took 11th spot.

Wotherspoon enjoyed a great season in the 500 losing only once in the event. He also captured the world sprint title for the fourth time in five years and also claimed his fifth World Cup 500 title in six years this winter.

Mike Ireland of Winnipeg was 12th and Jason Parker of Yorkton, Sask., 18th.