Dealing with her demons

JIM BENDER -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 7:25 AM ET

Winnipeg's Cindy Klassen rolled up her right sleeve to reveal a 10-inch scar running from her wrist to elbow, a constant reminder how dangerous speed skating can be.

"It's not pretty (but) I don't mind," she said yesterday.

Although she has been back on skates for more than a year after a crash that resulted in 12 torn tendons, Klassen has yet to fully recover from the surgery.

"I don't have any feeling in these two fingers right now," she said, indicating the ring finger and pinkie of her right hand. "And I don't know if it'll come back. They said after a couple of years, if I don't get the feeling back, it's probably not going to come back."

Not that it will affect her at the 2006 Olympics.

BREAK FROM TRAINING

"Not for skating because all I have to do is swing my arms," said Klassen, who will speak at a midget hockey tournament breakfast tomorrow now that she is home for a month-long break from training in Calgary. "But things like playing the piano, and I can't really type on the keyboard because I don't really know what (those fingers are) doing. One thing that (the doctors) kind of warned me about was that, say, if you're cooking and you put (the hand) down on a hot element, you might not feel that."

Klassen, 25, rebounded from the injury by winning both a silver and bronze medal at the 2004 World Single Distances Championships, then won two gold and a silver medal at the 2005 world championships in Germany last month.

Yet, the incident still preys upon her mind.

"Yeah, I thought about it a lot," Klassen admitted. "I just didn't want to crash again. I don't normally crash that often. It was just kind of a fluke thing that happened. So now, when I'm on the inside corner, it gets me a little bit scared just because I'm going at such a high speed and I'm worried about what happens if one of my skates slips out from under me. But it's more during practice when there's a lot of people around that I'm worried that I'll crash into someone else. During a race, it's a little better because there's only one person out there with you."

She's had help to overcome her fears.

"We do a lot of things to help me get over it," said Klassen, who is preparing for her second Olympics. "There's this thing called turn-cable where you have someone holding you up and you're just feeling your hip in and that helps a lot when you're actually doing the corners."

Obviously, that worked at the recent worlds.

"Yeah, it was OK," she said. "That certainly gives me lots of confidence going into next season."


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