Sports

Klassen wins Lou Marsh Award

Long-track speed skater Cindy Klassen, who set a Canadian record by winning five medals at the Torino Olympics, was named the winner of the Lou Marsh Award on Monday.

Long-track speed skater Cindy Klassen, who set a Canadian record withfive medals at the Torino Olympics, was named the winner of the Lou Marsh Award on Monday.

The award is given annually to Canada's outstanding athlete by the Toronto Star and is named after the newspaper's former sports editor. The winner is chosen by a panel of sports editors and broadcasters.

"It's such a huge honour and a very special way to end the year off," Klassen told CBC Newsworld on Monday afternoon.

The 27-year-oldfrom Winnipeg is the country's most decorated Olympian, with six career medals.

She set a Canadian record at the Gamesin Italy in February, when she won gold in the 1,500 metres, silver in the 1,000 and team pursuit and bronze in the 3,000 and 5,000.

Her five-medal haul marked the highest total by a female speed skater, surpassing the four gold medals won by Lidiya Skoblikova of Russia at the 1964 Innsbruck Winter Games.

Klassen, who lives in Calgary,previously won bronze in the 3,000 at the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City.

As a result of her amazing performance in Italy, she had the honour of serving as Canadian flag-bearer for the closing festivities at the Torino Games.

Klassen continued to dominate her sport after the Games, winning the all-round world title and shattering the 1,000-metre world record multiple times.

Steve Nash, who became the first Canadian to be named the NBA's Most Valuable Player, won the Lou Marsh Award in 2005.

Nash finished runner-up to Klassen this year.

Other finalists were American League MVP Justin Morneau, speed skater Clara Hughes, NHL MVP Joe Thornton, freestyle skier Jennifer Heil and Maurice Richard Trophy winner Jonathan Cheechoo.

"It's an honour to be up with these athletes. Look at Steve Nash, NBA MVP two years in a row, who knows if that's ever going to happen again," Klassen said.

Past winners of the award include Wayne Gretzky, speed skater Catriona Le May Doan, Formula One world champion Jacques Villeneuve, sprinter Ben Johnson, golfer Mike Weir and figure skater Barbara Ann Scott.

Track star Phil Edwards won the first Lou Marsh Award in 1936.

Klassen hopes the publicity from winning the award will help encourage young Canadians to take up speed skating.

"Any time that an amateur sport is in the spotlight I think it helps," she said. "A lot of kids look up to the athletes and hopefully get more involved in sports because of us."

The panel of voters included representatives from the Toronto Star, the Canadian Press, the FAN590/Primetime Sports, the Globe and Mail, Sportsnet, CTV/TSN, Montreal La Presse and the National Post.