Cindy Klassen, Canadian speed skating legend, retires
Winnipeg native won 5 medals at 2006 Olympic Winter Games
Cindy Klassen was already one of the best speed skaters in the world when she stepped onto the ice at the 2006 Winter Games in Turin, Italy.
By the conclusion of those Games, however, she had transformed herself from a top athlete to a Canadian icon.
Klassen, who announced her retirement in her native Winnipeg on Saturday, became the only Canadian athlete to win five medals in a single Olympics, winning one gold, two silver and two bronze.
"It's been an incredible honour to represent Canada in speed skating for 15 years. Speed skating has been a blessing in my life. It has provided me with unbelievable experiences and has taught me many life lessons," Klassen said.
Her performance in 2006 was so impressive it prompted then International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge to proclaim Klassen as "the woman of the Games."
Klassen, 35, first came to world prominence in 2002, when she won an Olympic bronze medal in the 3,000 metres at the Salt Lake City Games.
A year later, she became the first female Canadian in 27 years to win the overall world title.
Klassen is tied with former teammate Clara Hughes for the most Olympic medals won (six) by a Canadian athlete.
"There are too many good memories to name them all," Klassen said.
"However, I do have a lot of fond memories from the 2006 season. Although it was about training extremely hard and preparing for the Olympics, the things I remember the most were the incredible times I had with my teammates. I am so grateful for the friendships I've formed through skating that will last a lifetime."
Injuries hindered Klassen throughout her career.
Prior to the start of the 2003-04 season, Klassen sliced her forearm after a fall in training. The deep cut measured 10 centimetres and she also damaged 12 tendons in her forearm.
In 2008 she missed six months after having arthroscopic surgery on both knees.
While she continued to race up until 2013, Klassen would never regain her Olympic form.
Klassen hasn't raced the last two years. She suffered a concussion while inline skating in the summer of 2013.
She is the second Olympic great Speed Skating Canada has lost to retirement in the last two weeks.
Christine Nesbitt, the 2010 Olympic champion in the 1,000 metres, announced her retirement on June 4 in Calgary.
The London, Ont., native wrote a heartfelt, first-person retrospective piece for CBC Sports the same day, recalling a trio of cross-country races against a young rival named Laura Roberts that changed her life.
As part of Klassen's achievements at the 2006 Winter Olympics, a special 25 cent coin was created by the Royal Canadian Mint in celebration of her five medals in 2010, featuring the Canadian in a speed skating pose.
Three million of the 22 million coins were produced in colour.
All statistics compiled by Infostrada Sports.
Awards and honours
- 2007 Female Athlete of the Year at the Canadian Sport Awards.
- Speed Skating Canada's Female Speed Skater of the Year in 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007.
- Canadian Press Female Athlete of the Year in 2005, 2007.
- 2006 Canadian Female Athlete of the Year.
- Canada's closing ceremony flag-bearer at 2006 Olympic Winter Games.
- 2006 Lou Marsh Athlete of the Year.
With files from the Canadian Press