February 22, 2006
First Klassen
Canada finishes 1-2 in 1,500m
PAT GRIER - Sun Media

TURIN, Italy - Canada's Olympic queen added gold to her crown and she had teammate Kristina Groves on the podium to share in the joy as they finished 1-2 in the women's 1,500-metre long track speed skate at the Oval Lingotto this afternoon.

In doing so, Klassen made Olympic history as the first Canadian athlete to win four medals in one Olympics and just the third to win five in her career.

The gold-silver finish is the second such result of these Games for Canada, matching Duff Gibson's and Jeff Pain's top placings in the men's skeleton last week.

But while Winnipeg's Klassen was expected to do well in the event in which she is the world record-holder, Groves' silver medal adds that much more emphasis to Canada's placing in the speed skating world.

It's Groves' second silver of these Olympics as she helped Klassen and three other teammates to second in the women's pursuit last week. Klassen also won silver in the 1,000 and bronze in the 3,000.

"For us to both be on the podium together after such an amazing race is wonderful,"Klassen said. "I couldn't have done it without my coach and teammates."

And then, with typical Klassen understatement, she said: "I've had a really good year."

Groves, 29, of Ottawa, couldn't contain her joy, even though her teammate bumped her from the top.

"It's so exciting, Canada finishing one-two," she said. "We couldn't have asked for anything better. We both had such great races."

Groves established the time to beat when, skating in the 15th pairing two before the 26-year-old Klassen, she bettered Italian Chiara Simionata's time of one minute, 58.76 seconds by more than two full seconds, clocking in at 1:56.74.

But she had to wait for Klassen and German star Anni Freisinger, skating in the penultimate grouping. Freisinger won the gold in the 1,500 at Salt Lake City four years ago and last fall, she and Klassen traded the world record.

Klassen burst off the starting line and it was soon apparent only a disaster would prevent her from taking the gold.

At the 700 metre mark she was 1.27 seconds ahead of Groves' split and she finished with a time of 1:55.27.

Freisinger was beaten for the bronze by 19-year-old Dutch star Irene Wust, who won gold in the women's 3,000 metres on the first weekend of the Games.

In winning today, Klassen, also becomes just the third Canadian to win five Olympic medals, adding to her bronze in the 3,000 metres four years ago in Salt Lake City.

Short-track speed skater Marc Gagnon is the most recent to do so with five medals between 1994 and 2002, while track star Phil Edwards was the first with five from 1928 to 1936.

Klassen, however, has one more race left, the 5,000 on Saturday.

"I want to enjoy this moment tonight and then re-focus for the 5,000,"She said. "I still have work to do."






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