Golden era begins

TURIN -- It's starting to hit Cindy Klassen, the stir she's causing at these Olympic Games.

Her first day of life as a gold medallist kept reminding her.

It began in the middle of the night, actually, when Klassen found herself wide awake, counting, not sheep, but laps around the Oval Lingotto, following her gold-medal breakthrough in Wednesday's 1,500 metre speed skating race.

"I only got three hours of sleep," Klassen was saying yesterday. "My heart was pounding, and I kept running through the race and the day I had. Sometimes it doesn't sink in until afterwards, because you're so caught up in the moment. Sometimes it's not until I go to bed at night and realize, 'Oh wow, I've actually won four medals.'"

At breakfast, another member of Team Canada wouldn't let her forget it.

Next up, a steak-and-pasta lunch with her family, where the gang chewed over her golden moment, yet again.

Later on, as she sat in the "green room," getting ready for last night's glitzy medals ceremony at Piazza Castello, the Winnipegger got a surprise call from Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

"He just said everybody back home is really proud of all that we've been doing here," Klassen said. "It was really nice to talk to him. Really an honour."

Minutes later, Klassen gets what she went downtown for, a golden fix that left her higher than she'd ever been, especially when they ran not one, but two, Canadian flags up the poles during the playing of O Canada.

The ultimate team player, Klassen revelled in sharing the stage with teammate and silver medal winner Kristina Groves of Ottawa.

"That was incredible," Klassen said. "It's something you always dream of. Having two Canadian flags up there was a really special feeling. It was so awesome to have both of us up there. I can't describe it."

If all that wasn't enough, right around the time Lou Reed was cranking it up for a post-ceremony concert, word reached Klassen that politicians back in Winnipeg are planning a parade in her honour.

This was, indeed, becoming a walk on the wild side.

"Wow!" Klassen, said, giggling like a schoolgirl. "That's really incredible. It's quite an honour. I wouldn't ever expect anything like that. I'm just out doing the sport I love."

And so it goes for Klassen, the honours piling up as fast as the medals.

To most Canadians, her Games are already defined. With four medals in four events, she's made history, and that's good enough.

Crazy thing is, here we are asking her how she'd like to carry Canada's flag for the closing ceremonies, and she's still got another race, tomorrow's 5,000.

Would anyone be shocked if she had a little trouble focusing?

Klassen, though, scales one hill, then looks for the next one.

"Even though it's not my favourite race, I'm looking forward to racing it," she said. "And then just enjoying the closing ceremonies and taking a breather for a bit."

One more day. One more race.

One more chance to cause another stir.