Our dynamic duo

GLEN DAWKINS -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 7:30 AM ET

A speed skater who made her mark on the world's biggest stage and a football player about to do the same were crowned as the 2006 queen and king of Manitoba sport.

Five-time 2006 Olympic speed skating medallist Cindy Klassen and Chicago Bears defensive lineman Israel Idonije were named as the 2006 Manitoba female and male athletes of the year at the Manitoba Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association 51st annual awards dinner last night at the Delta Winnipeg.

The University of Manitoba Bisons football team was selected as the winner of the Maurice Smith Memorial Trophy as the province's top team for last year.

Manitoba's top female athlete for a fourth time after wins in 2002, 2003 and 2005, Klassen took gold in the 1,500 metres, silvers in the 1,000 and team pursuit and bronze medals in the 3,000 and 5,000 metres at the Olympic Games in Turin, Italy, to become the most decorated Canadian Olympic athlete.

She also dominated the world all-round championships, finishing first in all five distances.

Last month, Klassen won the Lou Marsh Trophy as Canada's Athlete of the Year and was chosen as the Canadian Press Female Athlete of the Year.

Klassen was at a World Cup event in Heerenveen, Netherlands, yesterday.

Idonije, a previous winner in 2002 when he starred with the Bisons, will play in the Super Bowl on Sunday in Miami.

In his third season with Chicago, he was an important member of the Bears defence en route to their first NFC title since 1985.

Idonije, who started out playing nine-man football in Brandon, is the first Manitoban and the fourth CIS player to earn a spot in the Super Bowl.

Guided by Canada West football coach of the year Brian Dobie, the 2006 Bisons ran up a perfect 8-0 regular-season record and reached the Hardy Cup Final before losing to Saskatchewan. Along the way, the Bisons set or tied nine team records.

UNANIMOUS CHOICE

Klassen was a unanimous selection for the female award, receiving first choice votes on all 43 ballots submitted by the Manitoba sports media.

Idonije picked up 16 first-place votes and 165 points to edge out Winkler's Dustin Penner of the National Hockey League's Anaheim Ducks.

The Bisons won with 18 first choice votes, finishing ahead of the Jennifer Jones national women's runner-up curling team and the Smitty's national junior fastpitch softball champions.

The other female finalists were Olympic gold and silver medallist speed skater Clara Hughes, Olympic gold medallist hockey player Jennifer Botterill, Manitoba top under-18 volleyball player Ashley Voth and Canada West University all-star soccer player Desiree Scott.

The other male finalists were Manitoba golfer of the year Garth Collings, American Hockey League scoring champion Kirby Law of the Houston Aeros and Manitoba Bisons linebacker Cory Huclack.

Rounding out the teams were the Manitoba under-17 women's volleyball team and the Football Manitoba under-17 squad, both national gold medallists.

The Cactus Jack Wells Memorial Award for having the most impact on the Manitoba sports scene in 2006 was judged to be the gold-medal performances of Klassen and Hughes in Turin, which greatly increased interest in speed skating.

As well, the MSSA paid tribute to the parents of the Manitoba athletes from the 2006 Olympics.

Manitoba Moose director of communications and hockey operations Scott Brown was presented with the Dallis Beck Memorial Good Guy Award for exceptional service to the provincial sports media.

Calgary Herald sports columnist and former Winnipeg Tribune and Winnipeg Sun sportswriter George Johnson and longtime Brandon Sun sports editor Mike Jones were inducted into the MSSA Manitoba Media Roll of Honour for outstanding commitment and dedication to sports coverage.

The MSSA Jack Matheson Awards -- created to provide financial support to Manitoba sports media students -- were presented to Red River College creative communications students Erin Carter and Derek Jory and University of Regina second-year journalism student Matthew Kruchak.


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