'Woman of the Games'

TURIN, Italy -- The head of the International Olympic Committee called her "the woman of the Games" yesterday, but Canada's medal queen just wants to be Cindy.

Speed skater Cindy Klassen continues to receive accolades for her record performance in this northern Italian city.

The five medals she won in speed skating even drew attention from IOC president Jacques Rogge in his wrap-up news conference yesterday.

"To see Cindy Klassen win five medals, she was definitely the woman of the Games," Rogge said.

No doubt

Actually, Klassen was the person of the Games, as no athlete hit the podium as often.

The Winnipegger certainly left no doubt about who would carry Canada's flag for last night's closing ceremonies.

Marching in behind the Bulgarian flag bearer, and ahead of the Czech Republic, Klassen waved to the crowd at Olympic Stadium.

But she really got into it when she got up on stage, waving the flag back and forth as a gaggle of photographers snapped pictures and Canadians in the crowd cheered.

Humble as always, Klassen said she was thrilled to be asked to precede the Canada's delegation into the stadium.

"To be up there representing all of us is such an honour," she said. "It's something I'm going to remember the rest of my life."

Earlier in the day, Klassen admitted she's been besieged by attention in the athletes village since hitting the podium a record five times.

"There've been a lot of people congratulating me, people I didn't even know," she said. "It was really exciting, and kind of overwhelming. I didn't expect that at all."

But she deflected much of the praise directed her way to the rest of Team Canada, which won an all-time high 24 medals -- seven more than at Salt Lake City.

Long-track skaters accounted for eight of them.

"When I was on the podium, what I was thinking about was my team, and just how much they meant to me," Klassen said. "That's the most special thing about being here at the Games.

"There's such a great spirit in the village amongst Canadians. Everybody's just on a high right now. The Canadians went out with heart and soul and did the best they could. It's looking so good for 2010. We're on a roll, and we're going to keep getting better and better."

Klassen, 26, also said something that should make the rest of the skating world sit up and take notice: she plans on being even better in four years.

"Hopefully in Vancouver I'll be at my strongest. I'm excited for Vancouver. It's going to be great to skate in front of the home crowd. It's special just to get to the Olympics. Being able to race in your home country is unbelievable."

It'll be awhile before Klassen gets back to her hometown for any kind of celebration honouring her achievements.

World Cup

There's been talk of a parade back in Winnipeg, recognizing the only Canadian to win five medals at a single Games, not to mention the only one to win six in a career.

But Klassen and her teammates leave for a World Cup event in Holland today. In two weeks, it's the World Championship in Calgary, followed by a season-ending event at Calgary's Olympic Oval, the team's training base.

Aside from getting back to her own bed and seeing her friends, what Klassen is looking forward to most is a trip to a certain restaurant in Calgary to feed her one weakness.

"I'm really looking forward to going to death by chocolate at the Palliser hotel," Klassen said. "It's a chocolate buffet. Chocolate is my weak point. I haven't had chocolate for a long time. I just had hot chocolate this morning, and it was awesome."

She hasn't had a pizza for weeks, either.

Go figure. She's in northern Italy for nearly a month and can't even allow herself two of the region's culinary delights.

She's probably OK with that, though.

Because she got exactly what she came for.

And then some.