Women's 5,000-metre speedskating gold medalist Canada's Clara Hughes, left, and teammate, bronze medalist Cindy Klassen are overjoyed as they sign the national anthem during medal ceremonies at the Turin 2006 Winter Olympic Games Saturday, Feb. 25, 2006 in Turin. (CP PHOTO/Paul Chiasson)
TURIN, Italy - Clara Hughes won gold and Cindy Klassen made history with a bronze as the Winnipeg ladies dominated the ice at the Oval Lingotto today.
The 33-year-old Hughes knocked her teammate from top spot, winning the 5,000 metres in a time of six minutes, 59.07 seconds.
"I am so thrilled," Hughes said. "This has been a dream of mine since I was 16.
But Klassen's time of 7:00.57 was enough to get her a fifth medal at these Olympics, the only Canadian to ever win five in a single Games. The 26-year-old is also the only Canadian to win six in a career, having won bronze in the 3,000 four years ago in Salt Lake City.
Here, Klassen previously won gold in the 1,500 metres, silvers in both the 1,000 and team pursuit, and another bronze in the 3,000.
"Coming into the Games I knew I was in five events but I didn't expect to get a medal in every distance, especially the 5,000," Klassen said.
Hughes picked up her second medal of these Games as well, having won the silver in the team pursuit as well, and it gives her a total of five medals in her career. She won bronze in the 5,000 in Salt Lake City and 10 years ago in Atlanta she won two bronze in cycling before switching to the blades. She is the only Canadian to have won medals in both Winter and Summer Olympics.
It looked like Klassen might cap off her record Games with a gold as the final pairing of Hughes and three-time Olympic champion Claudia Pechstein of Germany were both behind Klassen going into the final lap.
But both Hughes and Pechstein kicked into another gear to knock Klassen down to third. Pechstein won the silver with a time of 7:00.08.
Hughes collapsed to the ice after crossing the finish line, but Klassen gave her a Canadian flag and Hughes made a victory lap, tears streaming down her face.
"I was in shock when I looked up and saw I had the fastest time," she said. "Then my legs buckled and I collapsed and I thought I would die from the pain in my legs.
"I thought I had it, going into the last corner, but then I thought (Pechstein) could beat me in the final straightaway, so I sprinted like I was fighting for my life."
Klassen was just as thrilled for her teammate as she was at her own achievement.
"Clara was on fire at the end," she said. "I'm really happy for Clara, we're so proud of her.
Klassen set a blistering pace during the first two-thirds of her race, but she tired in the last couple.
"That's always the case for me in the long distances," she said. "I am more of a middle-distance skater. I was happy with my beginning and middle but the last few laps I fell away a little."
Hughes' gold is the seventh for Canada at these Games, matching the country's previous best output in Salt Lake City, and gives its Olympians a total of 22, third in total behind Germany's 28 and the United States' 23.
Canada won 17 medals in Salt Lake City.
Ottawa's Kristina Groves, 29, who has two silver medals in these Olympics, finished sixth in 7:03.95.