She's the same ol' Cindy

ERIC FRANCIS -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 7:41 AM ET

She lives in the same apartment, still keeps her Olympic medals in her closet, still finds the podium with regularity and she's still as humble and accommodating as ever.

Aside from her bank account and heightened status amongst great Canadian athletes, little has changed for Cindy Klassen since the Turin Games.

But that doesn't stop even the most casual of observers from expecting even more from the six-time Olympic medal winner.

"She's got a new haircut," said an Olympic Oval official on hand for yesterday's press conference for the Essent ISU World Cup speed skating final in Calgary this weekend.

"Maybe she'll go faster."

Despite taking the first half of the season off to hang around Canmore coffee houses recharging her batteries, the 27-year-old Winnipeg native has picked up where she left off. Despite missing too many events to challenge for any season titles this weekend as she did at last year's sold-out event, she has finished the season strongly.

"Last year it was pretty busy -- now things have calmed down and that makes it more ideal to get ready for 2010," said the woman of the Turin Games, reiterating the fact her break is all part of her preparation for Vancouver.

"My coach asked me after the world championships in Holland, 'If someone would have said you would have gotten third at the world sprints and third at the world allround, would you still have taken the break?' I would have jumped at the chance. As the season went on, I got more and more comfortable.

"2010 is in my mind but you have to make little goals along the way."

With Shannon Rempel (second in the 1,000m), 21-year-old Christine Nesbitt (third in the 1,500, seven podiums this year) and Kristina Groves (fourth in 1,500) amongst challengers for distance titles this weekend, all eyes will still be on Klassen -- a five-time medallist in Italy one year ago.

"I knew I needed to come back," said Klassen, who gave only the briefest of thought to skipping the whole season.

"When I got back on the ice I was hungry again. It was great to be back competing and seeing my teammates. By finishing off the year, I'm going to have confidence for next year so I think it was important to come back this season."

With qualifying spots on the line for the upcoming world championships in Salt Lake City, you can bet Klassen will be the odds-on favourite in all three distances she's racing -- 1,000, 1,500 and the 3,000. After all, last year she won all four races she entered in Calgary.

"This weekend I have more confidence and I'll hopefully be better than I was at the start," she said.

"Racing at home, I think our team is going to do really well here. The ice is really fast."

Talk leading up to the three-day event, which is sold out again, revolves around new world records on the speedy Oval ice.

One of the prime candidates is Fort St. John's Denny Morrison, who almost broke the 1,000 mark of 1:07.03 with a 1:07.35 last week in a practice race.

"Last weekend the ice was pretty fast but they just hose-flooded today so it's flatter," said Morrison.

"Plus, there's apparently a chinook coming and low pressure means faster ice. With the home-ice advantage of the home crowd and all that, it's possible but I have to make it happen."

Plenty of Canadians will, with Klassen leading the way.


Videos

Photos