Klassen destroys own world record

PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 12:34 PM ET

CALGARY -- She's done it again.

Another jaw-dropping performance. Another world record. Another race in which she flat-out destroyed the competition.

And that wasn't even the best part of Cindy Klassen's day.

But it's where we'll start.

The 26-year-old Winnipegger skated the fastest women's 3,000-metre race of all time at the Olympic Oval here yesterday, lopping 2.41 seconds off the world record she set on this same track last November.

So much for an Olympic hangover.

Skating before a fired-up and sold-out crowd of some 3,200 on her home ice -- a crowd that included her grandmother, who'd never seen her compete live -- Canada's Queen of the Olympics turned the first day of the World All-Round Speed Skating Championships into her own personal showcase.

IMPRESSIVE

Her time of three minutes, 53.34 seconds in the 3,000 was a full four seconds ahead of her nearest competitor, Germany's Claudia Pechstein.

And if you think that's impressive, you should have seen Klassen's first race of the day, the 500 metres. That's the one that had everybody buzzing.

Competing in a distance she rarely skates (the 500 is dominated by sprint specialists), the country's most decorated Olympian of all time shot across the line in a time of 37.51 seconds, again, easily the best time of the day and the third-best by any sprinter this season.

What's more, just four women have ever skated a faster 500.

"I'm actually more happy about my 500 than the 3K," Klassen said. "I thought maybe I could go low-38, but to do 37.5 was beyond my expectations."

Pechstein had another way of looking at it.

"I think any man would be happy about this time," the German star said.

One in particular.

Klassen's coach, Neal Marshall, was nearly beside himself after watching his star pupil carve .79 seconds off her personal best. You just don't take that much time off a short race like the 500.

"That was incredible," Marshall said. "Ridiculous. When I saw her opener, I thought maybe a high 37. But 37.5 -- what the heck is that? She skated all of it beautifully."

Marshall admits it was a challenge getting Klassen up for this event. The last three days, though, he says he began to get excited.

He saw something in Klassen's training, a smoothness and a symmetry that suggested she was finding a real groove.

Then there was her demeanor. A confident, positive Cindy is always the best kind of Cindy.

Certainly, the most dangerous.

"She showed up today and had her game face on," Marshall said. "She nailed her race."

And then Marshall tossed this one out: "Maybe we made a mistake and she should have skated the 500 at the Games."

Just kidding.

Or was he?

Could Klassen add yet another event to her repertoire, creating a six-medal possibility for Vancouver, 2010?

"We haven't (discussed it)," Marshall said. "But it'll be curious to see what she has to say after this weekend."

Why wait that long?

"I'm not sure about that," Klassen said, presented with the notion. "The ice was incredible today, so if the sprinters had been out on the ice I'm sure they would have been flying. I'd have to get a lot better to do that. But I don't know. We'll see."

With Klassen, the best bet would be not to bet against her.

One thing we can say: she has the overall world championship title, and the $20,000 U.S. that goes with it, in the bag.

Her first race today is the 1,500, her best event. Assuming she wins that, she'll basically just have to keep her feet in the 5,000 to finish first.

"I'm set up well," she said. "But anything can happen."

We find that out almost every time she skates.


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