Manitobans shine in 2005

GLEN DAWKINS -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 11:27 AM ET

It seems only fitting that speed skater Cindy Klassen finished 2005 where she started the year: on the medal podium.

Gearing up for the Winter Olympics in February, Klassen broke two world records and picked up eight World Cup medals to kick off the 2005-2006 season, including a trio of silver medals to christen the new Olympic oval in Turin, Italy in mid-December.

She posted similar performances in early January in Salt Lake City, Utah -- site of the 2002 Winter Olympics where she won the bronze in the 3,000 metres -- at the North American qualifier for the World All Round Championships to begin an outstanding run of success on the ice.

From there, she took the overall silver at the World All Round Championships, the World Cup title in the 1,500 metres and gold medals in the 1,500 and 3,000 and a silver in the team pursuit at the World Single Distances Championships. It was all capped by her selection as Speed Skating Canada's Female Long Track Skater of the Year.

But Klassen wasn't the only Winnipeg speed skater or Manitoba amateur athlete to makes the headlines this past year.

Klassen's World Championships silver medal teammate in the team pursuit, Clara Hughes, also made some noise on the oval. She picked up a bronze medal in the 5,000m at the World Single Distances Championships and another bronze in the 5,000m at the World All Round Championships.

Like Klassen, Hughes is also headed to Turin, hoping to reach the podium as she did with a bronze in the 5,000m in 2002.

On the court, Jennifer Saunders pulled off a rare feat. She teamed up with Josee Grand'Maitre of Longueuil, Que., to successfully defend the Canadian women's doubles racquetball championship. She followed that up by capturing the women's singles crown, her second overall and first since 2002.

In squash, Alana Miller bounced back from a 2-0 deficit in the final to capture the gold medal at the Pan American Squash Championships in San Salvador, El Salvador.

The big event on the calendar for Manitoba athletes this year was the Canada Summer Games in Regina. Fittingly, Manitoba's team was led by its flag bearer from the Opening Ceremonies Landice Yestrau who captured a pair of gold medals in the backstroke.

Yestrau wasn't through. In November, she became the first Manitoba athlete to qualify for the Commonwealth Games.

On the men's side, water skier Kole Magnowski from Russell saved his best for last to win the gold in the men's jump at the Under-21 World Water Skiing Championships in Feldberg, Germany.

Not to be outdone, tenpin bowler Michael Schmidt won the Qubica/AMF World Cup title in Slovenia, becoming the first Canadian male since 1972 to capture the prestigious title.

Manitoba athletes also made their presence felt in football.

Manitoba's Under-19 and Under-17 provincial teams both struck gold at the Football Canada Cup while the Winnipeg Rifles had their best season in franchise history. 


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