'Fresh in my mind'

JIM BENDER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:40 AM ET

She is Canada's most decorated Olympic athlete and the awards to honour her achievements just keep on coming.

Winnipeg's Cindy Klassen was named the female athlete of the year for the second straight time at the 34th Annual Canadian Sport Awards at the Investors Group Athletic Centre last night.

But after winning five Olympic medals at last year's Winter Olympics, the speed skater supreme was asked what she can possibly do for an encore as she prepares for the 2010 Games in Vancouver.

'STRONGER AND STRONGER'

"Sporting careers go up and down, so I'm just going to try to get stronger and stronger," Klassen said. "But I know that's what my competitors are going to be doing, too, and it can be anybody's day when you're out there."

Klassen, 28, certainly had her days in Italy last year. And she has deserved the nods she has gotten since.

"It's a huge honour to be given this award, especially here in my hometown," said Klassen, whose parents were on hand. "I was so happy with our results (last year) and I couldn't have done it without my teammates and my coach, Neal Marshall -- who got coach of the year -- and my parents.

"It seems strange that it's March 2007 but I think the Olympics will always be fresh in my mind. There's so many good memories from that event."

Manitoba's Clara Hughes, who pledged $10,000 of her own money to Right to Play, earned the Investors Group Spirit Sports Story of the Year for demonstrating dedication, perseverance, sportsmanship, respect for others and a true love of sport.

Because the Olympic speed skater gold-medallist challenged others to match her donation, more than $430,000 has been raised for the noble cause. Hughes was absent from the proceedings.

Alberta's Olympic skeleton gold medal winner Duff Gibson, who has retired, was named the country's top male athlete.

The national women's hockey squad got the nod as Canada's top female team while Newfoundland's Olympic curling gold medallist Brad Gushue took the honour as the top male team.

Canadian alpine ski team athlete Stefan Guay and fellow triathlete Kirsten Sweetland, both of B.C., were named the nation's top junior male and female athlete, respectively.

TOEWS, IMRIE HONOURED

The Alberta bobsleigh duo of Pierre Lueders and Lascelles Brown were deemed the top partners.

Other award winners were: Alberta's Beckie Scott (athlete leadership), Quebec's Walter Sieber (volunteer) and Ontario's Victory Lachance (leadership in sport).

Meanwhile, Sport Manitoba also named Jonathan Toews (hockey) and Megan Imrie (biathlon) as the top male and female youth athletes. The under-17 women's provincial volleyball squad was the top youth team.


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