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Speedskater Cindy Klassen wins the Lou Marsh Award

Speedskating has come a long way since its roots over 1,000 years ago in Scandinavia and the Netherlands, when people laced animal bones to their footwear and glided across frozen waterways. Long metal blades, indoor frozen ovals, and very fast gliders have transformed the sport. Few Canadians have become legends of speedskating but among them are ferocious competitors named Boucher, Le May Doan, Klassen and Hughes.

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It's been a stellar year for Cindy Klassen. The five medals she won at the 2006 Turin Olympics plus her 2002 bronze at Salt Lake City make her the Canadian with the most Olympic medals, with a total of six to her name. She then goes on to win the 2006 Speed Skating World Cup and crowns her achievements with the Lou Marsh Memorial Trophy for Canada's top athlete. As we see in this CBC-TV report, Klassen beats out basketball great Steve Nash, baseball's Justin Morneau and her own speedskating teammate and cycling star Clara Hughes to win the Lou Marsh Award.
• A native of Winnipeg, Klassen was born Aug. 12, 1979. As of 2009, she lives and trains in Calgary.
  • In October of 2003 Klassen fell during practice and her forearm was sliced open by the razor-sharp blade of a fellow skater. The blade cut through an artery and a dozen tendons, and also caused nerve damage. In a CBC Radio interview in 2004 she described the accident, saying that she was scared and that as she went in out of consciousness she asked her coach if she was going to die.

• Klassen was originally a hockey player. She played defence for Canada's National Junior Women's Hockey team and was devastated when, in 1998, she didn't make Canada's Olympic team. It was then that she turned to speedskating.

• On Jan. 5, 2010, the Royal Canadian Mint was scheduled to release a quarter featuring Cindy Klassen along with nine other Canadian Winter Olympic gold medalists including her teammate Clara Hughes.

• Klassen rushed home from a competition in Germany in February of 2008 when her sister Lisa was involved in a near-fatal car accident. Lisa's car skidded on an icy bridge and dropped 15 meters into the Red River below. She was rescued by two Good Samaritans, who broke her car window and cut her out of her seatbelt, pulling her from under water where she had been submerged for several minutes. She was released from hospital to recover at home two weeks after the accident and went on to qualify as a flight instructor.

• Marc Gagnon (short track speed skating), Phil Edwards (track and field), and Clara Hughes (speed skating and cycling) each have five Olympic medals. Klassen surpassed them all when she won her sixth Olympic medal in Turin in 2006.

• The Lou Marsh Memorial Trophy is awarded annually to Canada's best athlete and is named after the Canadian athlete, referee, and veteran Toronto sports journalist who died in 1936 after a 43-year career as a sports writer with the Toronto Star. Marsh's motto, "With Pick and Shovel", appears on the trophy above the names of the athletes. Wayne Gretzky has won it four times, more than any other Canadian athlete.

Medium: Television
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: Dec. 11, 2006
Guest(s): Cindy Klassen, Silken Laumann
Host: Peter Mansbridge
Reporter: Tom Harrington
Duration: 2:12
Clip has been edited for copyright reasons

Last updated: February 12, 2014

Page consulted on September 10, 2014

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