February 21, 2006
Botterill part of elite company
PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

TURIN -- I'll see your silver and raise you one gold.

That's the line Jennifer Botterill could use on Cindy Klassen if she runs into her at the athletes' village here today.

The two Winnipeggers, both 26 years old and former rivals at the hockey rink, have a nice little Olympic poker game going, with medals as chips.

Klassen, the speed skater, has already tossed two silvers and a bronze into the pot.

Yesterday, though, Botterill upped the ante, winning gold with the women's hockey team.

"It's fun to follow her," an elated Botterill told the Sun from just outside the Team Canada dressing room last night. "We're so happy for her."

Klassen would no doubt say the same.

These two may never have squared off at the card table, but their paths did cross eight years ago.

That's when Botterill made the first women's Olympic team as an 18-year-old, and Klassen didn't.

Botterill went on to win a silver medal in Nagano, while Klassen watched from her North Kildonan home, vowing to become an Olympian in another sport.

She did, of course, while Botterill became a fixture on Team Canada, following up the '98 silver with a gold in Salt Lake City and another here last night in a 4-1 victory over Sweden.

Botterill collected two assists, including a helper on the eventual winning goal in the first period.

But her biggest thrill was the medal presentation.

"When you line up and get your medals, and you're looking down the line at your teammates getting theirs, that's the best moment," Botterill said. "I can't say enough about everyone on this team. We got along so well."

It sounded like the scene in the dressing room later was equal parts laughter and tears.

"People are happy, and some are crying," she said. "It's just so special."

A former Harvard University star who's the NCAA's all-time female points leader, Botterill was also thrilled to share her gold-medal moment with her brother, Jason, and parents Cal and Doreen.

It was the first time Jason, a former player, had been able to watch his sister win an Olympic medal in person.

Botterill is one of just seven members of the women's team to have been on all three medal-winning teams, since the women's game became part of the Olympics.

"It's pretty amazing," she said.

So will she go for four, or call it a career?

"It's definitely too soon to say that. It's so appealing for everyone, knowing it's in Vancouver in four years. And time goes by so quickly."

Maybe it'll depend on how many medals Klassen has tossed into the pot by then.