February 23, 2006
Sentimental Groves sheds tears of joy
PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

TURIN -- Kristina Groves didn't think she was the sentimental type.

A week ago, when the 29-year-old Ottawa native stood on the podium with Canada's silver medal women's pursuit team, she couldn't believe medalists from the other teams were crying.

"And I thought, 'Gosh, I don't think I would ever cry,'" Groves said yesterday.

Things changed when she won a silver in yesterday's 1,500 metres, grabbed hold of a Canadian flag and took a victory lap with gold-medal winner Cindy Klassen.

"And then I saw my boyfriend, and tears came to my eyes," Groves told reporters here. "And then to see Cindy ... it's kind of hard to describe the feelings you have. Pure elation on my part."

And a pure shocker for many observers.

Although she'd hit the podium a couple of times on the World Cup circuit this season, Groves wasn't generally included on the list of favourites for the 1,500, at least not up there with Klassen and Germany's Anni Friesinger.

Knew she had a shot

"People haven't really picked me my whole career, so I'm kind of used to that," Groves said. "I'm not too concerned about what people think I can do. I'm more concerned about what I think I can do."

And, deep down, she knew she had a shot.

Skating in the 15th pair, she blew away the previous best time by a full two seconds, clocking 1:56.74.

With three three pairs to come, she was in top spot.

"It's a little nerve-wracking watching the last couple of races go," Groves said. "All I could do was sit there and watch."

When the only skater to beat her was Klassen, Groves had her first individual Olympic medal -- 19 places higher than her 1,500-metre finish at Salt Lake City.

"She went out and just lit it up," Klassen said. "She had a great race. That helps everybody skate better, when they see another teammate doing well."

Groves credits a change of coaches and a new mental approach for much of her improvement the last four years.

No longer is she so bent on the result. It's her own skate that matters.

And yesterday's was exactly what she was looking for.

"To be able to have a race like that on this day is really special for me," she said. "Technically, that was the best I could have skated.

"We both skated the races of our lives today."

The silver comes on the heels of her fifth-place finish in the 1,000 on Sunday, a race she almost never competes in, internationally, and one she almost opted out of.

It turns out that would have been a major mistake.

"That was the best possible prep I could have done for this race," Groves said. "It was just good for my confidence."

Groves and Klassen's performances give the long track speed skaters five medals here, two more than they produced at Salt Lake City.

"It's great for our team," Groves said. "It's great for Canada."







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