February 26, 2006
A legacy that lasts
More than a parade preferred
TAMARA KING -- Winnipeg Sun

They definitely want a celebration to honour Winnipeg's triumphant Olympic speed skaters.

But the local speed skaters hope the monumental medal haul by Cindy Klassen and yesterday's top honours for Clara Hughes will do much more than shine a temporary spotlight on their sport.

"I think a party or a parade is good, but then it's gone," says Anne Mushumanski. "I would love to see a legacy facility in their names."

"We produce such great athletes out of our facility here, which is only open 2 1/2 months a year," said Mushumanski, who started skating at the same time as gold medallist Clara Hughes and later coached Olympic record-setter Cindy Klassen.

The outdoor ice oval at the Sargent Park Recreation Complex -- re-named in 1999 for Winnipeg Olympic speed skating silver medallist Susan Auch -- opens in mid-December and is only useable until the ice starts to melt in spring, said Mushumanski.

"Imagine what we could do if we had a facility that was open in October," she said, noting local athletes could stay in Winnipeg instead of moving to train at the national centre in Calgary.

The facility doesn't even need a roof, Mushumanski said, as long as it has artificial ice so athletes can start training in the fall. What's more, the ice could be made available to all skaters.

"Speed skating could have its certain hours and the public could have their certain hours," she said.

'LASTING LEGACY'

City hall would entertain the thought of upgrading Winnipeg's speed skating oval, Mayor Sam Katz told the Sun yesterday.

A speed skating fan since helping finance some of Susan Auch's training for the Nagano Olympics, Katz said he wants to see "a lasting legacy" in the city as a reminder of the athlete's accomplishments in Turin.

"I'm totally open-minded. I would listen to any ideas that come forward," Katz said.

"But are you asking me would I make a commitment right now on behalf of the city, I'd have to say no ... But I'm happy to discuss anything," he said, adding he hasn't been formally approached by the Manitoba Speed Skating Association.

There's been no shortage of suggestions on how city hall should recognize local athletes, Katz said, everything from renaming a recreation facility to renaming a street.

"Every 20 minutes I'm getting faxes and e-mails about different ideas," he said.

The city is also making short-term plans -- like a party or a parade -- to honour the athletes. Those details are still being worked out, Katz said yesterday.

For now, local speed skaters admit a new oval is but a dream.

"But you have to have dreams," Mushumanski said. "That's how these girls got where they are, because they have dreams."







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