Cindy skates a 'sick' race

ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 12:34 PM ET

Cindy Klassen may have discovered a way to top her five-medal performance in Turin.

Win six in Vancouver.

On the heels of one of the most dominating seasons in speed skating history, the 26-year-old Winnipeg native shocked even herself yesterday at the Oval when she became the fifth-fastest woman of all time in the 500m -- an event she rarely races in.

"Maybe we made a mistake and she should have skated the 500m at the Games," joked coach Neal Marshall after Klassen won the 500m at the ISU World Allround Championships in 37.51.

"I was amazed by that. That was an incredible jump in performance for a race she doesn't do that often."

Winning the race by an unheard of 1.24 over Ottawa's Kristina Groves and Russia's Yekaterina Lobysheva, Klassen then went on to shatter her world record in the 3,000m 90 minutes later. But while a capacity crowd of 4,000 that included her parents, cousins and 80-year-old grandmother was on its feet to applaud her time of 3:53.34, Klassen was more impressed by her newfound sprint success.

"I never expected to go that fast in the 500 -- I thought maybe I could go low 38," smiled Klassen, whose previous personal best was 38.30. "My opener is still pretty slow compared to the sprinters. The ice is incredible and if the sprinters were out there I'm sure they would have been flying."

Humble enough to consider herself a "slow starter," Klassen's lap time (final 400m) was actually faster than that of Catriona Le May Doan's when she set the world record of 37.22 at the Oval in 2001. The 0.29 difference between Le May Doan's record and Klassen's time was all in the opening 100, which speaks to Klassen's "slow" start.

So, would she consider adding the 500 to her repertoire in Vancouver for 2010?

"I'm not sure about that," blushed Klassen, who, like every racer in the Allround championships, tallies up points accrued in all four events -- the 500 and 3,000 yesterday and the 1,500 and 5,000 today -- to determine the overall winner.

"I'd have to get a lot better to do that. I don't really see that happening right now but I don't know ... we'll see."

Marshall said he's curious to hear Klassen's thoughts on her future in the 500 after the season ends today.

"It's not impossible, I guess," said Marshall, explaining the mindset and training regiment varies widely between training for distance and sprint races.

"Maybe. We'll see how the next four years go, I guess. There are totally different training goals so it's difficult to be the best at both (long and short races). If she ever wanted to do that in the future and focus on either end I think she could improve in the 500 or 5,000."

The world's fastest ice and the electricity generated by 4,000 fans helped most of the 500 competitors to personal bests but no one came remotely close to matching Klassen's speed in either event. In fact, Klassen's 500 time beat five of the men.

In the 3,000 German speed queen Claudia Pechstein finished second, four seconds behind Klassen's time of 3:53.34. Klassen's previous world record was 3:55.75, set last year in Calgary.

"Ironically when she broke the record here last time, she was sick then too," smiled Marshall as a stuffed up Klassen stood on the podium coughing.

"I've got to find out how to make her sick."

And then find a way to get her to sprint more.


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