Klassen pulls plug on season

PAUL FRIESEN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:58 AM ET

She had to cut last season short when her sister suffered a life-threatening car accident.

Now she's pulled the plug on this season, after double knee surgery last summer.

But speed skater Cindy Klassen of Winnipeg says her sights remain on 2010, and the rare opportunity to compete in an Olympics on her home soil.

"I'm going to put this season on hold," Klassen announced during a conference call from her training base in Calgary yesterday. "I haven't had any setbacks, and I don't want to have any. If I push it too hard, who knows what could happen? I just want to make sure I'm strong and getting my fitness in so that I'm fully prepared when 2010 comes."

Originally, Klassen, 29, had planned to join her teammates on the World Cup circuit before season's end.

In changing her plans, the six-time Olympic medallist is taking the cautious approach, saving it all for the 2009-10 season, which includes the Vancouver Winter Games.

"I mean, I know how to race," Klassen said. "I've done it for the last 10 years. So I don't think racing is going to be so key for my recovery."

Klassen described her July surgery as a cleaning out of both knees. The patella tendons had been giving her problems from the wear and tear of years of hard training.

Some five months later, she's still limited to cycling, weight work and physiotherapy, with plans to ease back into skates in January.

"We thought it would be about a four- to six-month recovery period, and that's what seems to be happening," she said. "There's still pain, but that's to be expected. I haven't had any flare-ups or anything, and that's what we've been trying to avoid."

Canada's most decorated Olympian, Klassen hasn't enjoyed smooth sailing since she won a record five medals at the Turin Games in 2006.

A little more than a year ago, she had to abandon an already-disappointing World Cup season to rush home to be with her sister, Lisa, who'd crashed through a bridge guard rail and plunged into the icy waters of the Red River.

She lost her Turin coach when Neal Marshall was forced out by Skate Canada.

Next, a lost season.

Saved by another motorist, Lisa Klassen made a remarkable recovery, and now Cindy will try to steal a page from her sister's book.

She says she draws inspiration not only from the near tragedy, but also from the success of Canadian teammates like Kristina Groves, Christine Nesbitt and fellow Winnipegger Shannon Rempel -- all medal winners this season.

Of course, there's the ultimate motivator, barely a year away.

"I have the 2010 Olympics around the corner -- that's enough motivation," Klassen said. "I keep thinking about that. And especially when I hear results from our Canadian team competing at the World Cup. They're doing so well.

"Seeing them on the podium gives me inspiration. It's pushing our whole team. It's looking really good for 2010 for the Canadians."

It would look even better if Klassen regains the form that put her in the history books.


Videos

Photos