Klassen debates retiring

By PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency

RICHMOND, B.C. — Clara Hughes may not be the only Canadian Olympic icon to call it a career after the Vancouver Winter Games.

Fellow Winnipeg product Cindy Klassen Wednesday revealed she’s also considering retirement from speed skating after taking part in her third Olympics.

“I’m getting a little older,” Klassen, 30, said after the 5,000-metre event, in which she placed 12th of 16 skaters. “Maybe it’s time to finish up my school. I’ve put that on hold for a while. And maybe settle down, I hope, eventually. We’ll see.”

Klassen says she’ll likely make a decision during a four-week break from training following the Games.

If she does hang up her skates, she leaves the track as Canada’s most decorated Olympian, along with Hughes, with six career medals. She won five in the last Games in Turin, alone.

But following a couple of setbacks — she cut short the 2007-08 season to be with her sister after a serious car accident, and lost the following season altogether after surgery on both her knees — Klassen wasn’t able to regain the form that had catapulted her to the top.

She finished well off the podium in all three of her races here.

But an emotional Klassen says these Games were memorable for other reasons.

“It’s been very special, even though the results weren’t what I had in the last Olympics,” she said. “It’s just been very emotional having the crowd behind us and feeling the support of all the Canadians. That’s one thing I’ve never experienced before, and something I’ll never experience again.

“I really didn’t expect to have that much support during each race.”

Fans at the Richmond Oval went wild every time a Canadian skated, but the cheers seemed especially loud for Klassen.

The competitor in her wonders what she could do if she kept at it through the next Games in Sochi, Russia.

“The last four years haven’t been ideal,” she said. “I haven’t had a full season since the Olympics. It would be neat to see what I could do if I could train the next four years leading up to that. I haven’t ruled that out.”

There are things she’d miss about competing, too, besides winning.

“I still love the sport. It’s great being an athlete. It’s a healthy lifestyle. The whole spirit of sport is really exciting. Seeing people rise up to the challenge. There’s heartbreak, days where you triumph over challenges. Sport is great for life.”

paul.friesen@sunmedia.ca

POLL