Klassen blazes to another world record

JIM BENDER -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 11:12 AM ET

The speed skating records just keep on cracking for Manitoba's favourite daughter.

Winnipeg's Cindy Klassen broke her second world mark this season, grabbing the gold medal in the 3,000-metres at the start of the World Cup long track competition in Calgary yesterday.

Klassen raced around the Olympic Oval in 3:55.75, shattering the record of 3:57.70, which was set by Germany's Claudia Pechstein during the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah.

"I didn't really expect it but the whole race was solid," Klassen said from Calgary after the race. "I was pretty tired and kind of died at the end because I'm more of a middle-distance skater."

ALMOST SICK

In fact, she was almost sick during the last strides.

"In the last lap, my coach was yelling, 'Keep the tempo up,' but my mind was screaming, 'I can't keep it up,' so I was pretty bagged at the end," Klassen told Sun Media. "It was a battle at the end and luckily, I was able to hold onto it and skate a new world record."

More importantly, Klassen can rest assured that she will be heading to the 2006 Olympics in Italy now. She had to meet certain standards to confirm that trip.

"After that race, I will be (guaranteed to go) now," she said.

Klassen, who will compete in the 1,500m and the team trials today, plans to compete in five events in Italy.

"This strong start is really good, it gives me confidence," Klassen told the Canadian Press.

"But this isn't the Olympics and it could be anybody's day at the Olympics."

Pechstein, who settled for silver, was paired with Klassen.

"It always helps to go up against Claudia," Klassen said. "You know you have to be on your game to beat her. Basically, I had some good speed at the beginning and held on. I got that lead early and never saw her afterwards.

"I didn't feel nervous before the race. I'm in the mindset that I'm going to go out there and enjoy it."

Klassen had also set the world record in the 1,500m in late October. But Germany's Ani Friesinger, who finished third in yesterday's 3,000m, broke that mark at a meet in Calgary just last week.

Manitoba's Clara Hughes was seventh.

Meanwhile, Canada won its first gold medal in the men's 3,200m pursuit, a new Olympic event. Alberta's Steven Elm and Arne Dankers and B.C.'s Denny Morrison posted a world record time of 3:39.69 to assure Canada of an Olympic berth in that event. The previous mark of 3:46.44 was set by The Netherlands last year.

"We're super excited about the win and a bit surprised as well," Dankers told CP. "The ice here is very fast and the other countries may not be used to that kind of speed this early on. So, that worked to our advantage. We went out there very quick and that was good strategy."

Teams from the Netherlands finished second and third.

In the men's 1,500 metres, Shani Davis of the U.S., just missed breaking his own world mark, finishing with 1:43.52 to take the gold. Fellow American Chad Hedrick was second and Russia's Aleksandr Kibalko took third.


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