February 26, 2006
'Peggers share spotlight after 5,000
PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

TURIN -- First, Clara Hughes pushed Cindy Klassen aside, with a final lap that had jaws dropping here at the Oval Lingotto.

Then, during a medal ceremony that Manitobans won't soon forget, Hughes pulled her fellow Winnipegger onto the top of the podium, more than willing to share her gold-medal moment.

"I felt kind of strange up there," Hughes said after winning the first gold medal of her career, in the 5,000 metres. "I've come second and third a bunch of times, but to have won, it was amazing.

"And then I turned around and saw Cindy, and I thought, 'I don't want to be alone up here, listening to O Canada. And I'm surely not going to sing by myself.' So Cindy came up there and we started singing really badly."

OLYMPIC HISTORY

Nobody's going to fault them for that, not after they hit all the right notes on the ice.

They continued to skate into history, too: Hughes as the only Olympic athlete to win multiple medals in both the Summer and Winter Games, Klassen with as many medals (five) as any athlete from any country in a single Winter Games.

Fitting, then, that it was Klassen who handed Hughes the Canadian flag for her victory lap.

"She has put so much work into the sport. She's just a tremendous athlete," Klassen said. "I'm so happy she won the gold. She's so happy, it's unbelievable. She said she almost fainted, and then she started crying."

For a while, it appeared Klassen might grab the top spot on the podium.

Skating in the second-last pairing, the 26-year-old posted a time of just over seven minutes (7:00.57 seconds), by far the best to that point.

But the final pairing of Hughes, 33, and Claudia Pechstein, 36, were the pre-race favourites, and they didn't disappoint.

STRIDE FOR STRIDE

Matching the three-time defending champ from Germany stride for stride through 11 laps (they were .15 seconds apart), Hughes fought through the pain to post a final lap time of just over 33 seconds, easily the best of the day -- and gaining nearly a second on Pechstein, who finished second.

Her last lap was more than three seconds better than Klassen's, relegating her teammate to third.

"I knew I had the strength in my finish," Hughes said. "That's what I've been saying to myself all week: 'My strength is in the finish. Don't forget that. Don't chase anybody down.'"

Digging deeper than she ever has, Hughes broke the seven-minute mark (6:59.07), then broke down, collapsing next to the track.

"That's what is most satisfying, is having overcome that pain," Hughes said. "Pain that is so intense that when you finish, it feels like you're going to die. That's what I wanted, and that's what I got."

Hughes compared the feeling to having "100 horses kicking you in the legs, all at once."

"It's not until after that your body absorbs what you've done to it," she said.

She wasn't feeling a thing when they hung that medal around her neck, though.







Bios

Roster

History

Schedule

Preview

Men's 500m
Results
Past Champs

Men's 1,000m
Results
Past Champs

Men's 1,500m
Results
Past Champs

Men's 5,000m
Results
Past Champs

Men's 10,000m
Results
Past Champs

Men's Team Pursuit
Results
Past Champs

Women's 500m
Results
Past Champs

Women's 1,000m
Results
Past Champs

Women's 1,500m
Results
Past Champs

Women's 3,000m
Results
Past Champs

Women's 5,000m
Results
Past Champs

Women's Team Pursuit
Results
Past Champs