Shy Olympian a stranger to celebrity

ADAM CLAYTON -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 7:29 AM ET

Olympic hero Cindy Klassen is still getting used to her celebrity status.

Everywhere the speed skater went in Winnipeg yesterday, she was mobbed by local and national media along with enthusiastic young fans seeking autographs.

Klassen, 26, said she's not used to being the centre of attention.

"I'm definitely very shy, so it's a bit different for me, but Winnipeg has been so supportive, and I'm really proud to be from here," she said. "It means a lot to me."

Klassen, who won five medals at the Winter Olympics in Turin, said she's proud to be considered a role model for children.

"It's really neat seeing the kids and how excited they get. I think it's great for the sport, too," she said. "We did so well at the games so, hopefully, kids are going to get excited and get involved in speed skating and, hopefully, the sport will grow in Canada."

Klassen is about to become even more famous. The Winnipeg native will appear in marketing for Manitoba Telecom Services after signing an endorsement deal worth about $1 million.

WON'T REPLACE BISON

However, MTS CEO Pierre Blouin said the familiar bison seen in TV commercials for MTS aren't going anywhere.

"Cindy's not going to be replacing the bison," he said. "The bison has been a very successful campaign, and we're looking to use it until it is not successful anymore, but there's no doubt that she will be involved with us in promoting our product."

Klassen said she won't let the money from the endorsement deals go to her head, and the biggest change will be not having to rely on her parents for financial help.

"It's going to be such a relief for me that I don't have to worry about where my money is coming from and I can focus on my training and racing," she said.

Klassen, who has a total of six Olympic medals, already has her sights set on the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver.

"I'm just going to enjoy the moment. I know that that's when I race my best," she said. "I might do better at the next games and I might do worse but as long as I'm having a good time, I'll come out of the games being satisfied with how I did."


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