Klassen rested and ready

KEN WIEBE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:31 AM ET

The Golden Girl is back on her blades and feeling better than ever.

As the nation gets ready to celebrate the one year countdown to the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver and Whistler, B.C., Winnipeg speed skater Cindy Klassen is happy to report she's making tremendous progress after skipping the 2008 competitive season.

"I'm feeling really good and I'm back on the ice again, which is fantastic," Klassen said in a telephone interview from the Richmond Olympic Oval yesterday afternoon. "It feels great, better than I expected but maybe that's because I've been doing some dry-land imitations before-hand to get prepare my body for the ice."

FELT VERY GOOD

Perhaps the biggest surprise for Klassen is that her technique hasn't suffered, despite the long layoff due to arthroscopic surgery to both knees last summer."After all of these years of my coach getting on my case and ingraining technique, technically it felt very good," said Klassen, who returned to the ice "a couple weeks ago" after her lengthy absence. "In the first session, they said I should just skate a straight-away but it felt so good that I started doing laps."

Klassen can't believe it's only a year until the next Olympics.

"One year away is not that long and I know the hype is just going to keep growing," said Klassen. "It's exciting and it's inspiring."

During the rehabilitation process, Klassen has often envisioned what it would be like to compete for her country on home soil.

"As soon as I heard Vancouver was getting the Games, it was a dream for me to come and compete in front of the home crowd and have them backing us up," said Klassen. "It would be very special."

Another thing that's hard to believe is that it's already been three years since Klassen captured the hearts of the country by collecting five medals at the 2006 Olympics in Turin, Italy.

"It seems like that was just yesterday," said Klassen. "But I don't really think about it too much. With Vancouver just around the corner, that's very exciting."

As good as she feels, Klassen isn't ready to make any bold predictions for the coming season.

"Right now, it's just about getting healthy again," said Klassen.

It's been an emotional year both on and off the ice for Klassen.

Aside from being forced to stay off the ice, Klassen's sister Lisa was involved in a serious car accident last February that resulted in her plunging into the Red River before she was rescued.

Lisa has made a full recovery and is actually back at work.

"It's incredible -- because I did go through a lot -- but like our whole family I really feel like our faith held us up and we found peace in God," said Klassen. "I know people were praying for us and we really felt that. I'm so grateful for all the support I've had. It means a lot to me and it's helped me get through this.

"It's been a challenging year, but it's also been exciting just because I've learned so much and I've grown too because of that."

The forced rest also allowed her to rejuvenate her body and mind.

"That's true," said Klassen. "Normally you don't get that time off and it's just grinding all the time. It's good to give my body a rest as well. When I injured my arm, I had to take some time off and my body really needed that. I'm thinking the same way this time around."

In the ensuing weeks, Klassen plans to continue training and working with new coach Mike Crowe on her technique.

Come next fall, the real work of getting back out on the World Cup circuit and nailing down her spot on the Olympic team will ramp up considerably.

When asked if one year was enough time for her to get back to her elite standards, Klassen didn't mince words.

"I'm very confident," she said.


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