Winnipeg on slow track

PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 7:23 AM ET

Hey, whatever happened to the Cindy Klassen Recreation Complex?

You remember the big splash made by Mayor Sam Katz when he announced the city would be renaming Sargent Park Recreation Complex to honour Canada's most decorated Olympic athlete?

That was last March.

Visit the complex today, and you might think Klassen finished last in all five of her races, instead of winning an unprecedented five medals at the Winter Games in Turin, Italy.

Not a sign in sight

There's not a sign in sight, they're still answering the phones by saying, "Sargent Park" and the seasonal public use schedules still have the Sargent Park heading.

It's 10 months after the announcement, and nothing has changed.

Talk about being slow out of the starting blocks. This is like slipping and falling, face first, five strides into the 500-metres.

"That's really embarrassing," Harvey Smith, the city councilor for the area, was saying yesterday. "That's just absolutely insane. It's such an easy thing to change. All it is is a sign. That's so bad. What it really tells you is it was a good news story for the mayor."

Smith, of course, was only too happy to take a few political strides on the issue.

But the people who run the Manitoba Speed Skating Association aren't impressed, either.

"When you really think about it, there should have been some signage there," MSSA president Brian McConnell said.

Particularly when you realize there are two pretty significant events coming to the complex next month, events that will bring visitors from across Canada and the U.S. to the supposed "home of Cindy Klassen."

The North American Age-Class Championships are set for Feb. 3 and 4, while the Canadian Championships will be held the following weekend.

These are the best speed skaters, up to age 17, on the continent. They believe they're coming to the Cindy Klassen Recreation Complex, because the MSSA at least had the sense to include the new name on their application forms.

Think our visitors might wonder why there's no mention of our Olympic hero when they arrive?

"There will be, probably, 500 people there every day," McConnell said. "Everybody who speed skates has heard of Cindy Klassen."

Already a world-record holder and owner of an Olympic bronze medal, Klassen became a household name last February when she won a gold, two silver and two bronze in Turin.

She's the only Canadian to win five medals at a single Olympics, and the only one with six in a career.

Her down-to-earth personality only increased her appeal to the average Canadian.

Like most of us, she doesn't blow her own horn.

We should point out that nobody affiliated with Klassen raised this issue. She's far too humble, not to mention too darned busy, to do that.

And I know putting our heroes on pedestals isn't always the Canadian way.

But if politicians are going to score points on the backs of our Olympic athletes, capitalizing on their heroics with splashy announcements and public appearances, they should follow through on their promises in a timely fashion.

'Preliminary'

A city spokesperson said it would have been "preliminary" to erect a sign before a major renovation of the complex, due to start in the summer. She couldn't explain why the staff and the printed material ignore the new name.

All I can say is it's a good thing Klassen doesn't move with the same speed of the political wheels down at city hall.

Nearly a year later, she's winning races again.

The politicians? They're still stumbling over the start line.


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