Winnipeg, June 20, 2015 – Skater Cindy Klassen, who won a total of six Olympic medals in long track speed skating over her career, including five at the 2006 Games in Torino, Italy, officially announced her retirement today.
One of Canada’s most successful sports figures, the 35 year-old athlete from Winnipeg, Manitoba, won the hearts of all Canadians when she won five Olympic medals at the 2006 Olympic Winter Games: gold in the 1500m race, silver in the 1000m and the Team Pursuit event along with Christine Nesbitt, Clara Hughes, Kristina Groves and Shannon Rempel, as well as bronze in the 3000m and 5000m races.
She became the first -- and remains the only -- Canadian athlete to win five medals at a single Olympic Games. The president of the International Olympic Committee at the time, Jacques Rogge, called her the “Woman of the Games”. She was also the flag bearer for the Canadian team at the 2006 Olympic Games closing ceremonies.
She won her first-ever Olympic medal, a bronze in the 3000m, at the 2002 Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, U.S.A.. Her total of six career Olympic medals allowed her to become the most decorated Canadian Olympic athlete with her former teammate Clara Hughes. However, Klassen won all her medals in one sport while Hughes won four in long track speed skating and two in cycling.
“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,” said Cindy Klassen.
“However, after taking a year off to go to university and to think about my future, I have come to the decision that I’m ready to move on and leave competitive speed skating behind me. I have fulfilled my dreams and aspirations, and it is now time to move on to new challenges.”
“Congratulations to Cindy Klassen for her successful speed skating career," said Speed Skating Canada’s President Jim Allison. "She will always be remembered as one of the best athletes Canada ever had, as she is still one of the most decorated Canadian Olympic athletes. Her five medals won in Torino in 2006 will always be part of the Canadian sport history.
“On behalf of the Canadian speed skating community, thank you, Cindy, and good luck with your upcoming projects. You will always be a model, on and off the ice, in Canada and around the world, especially with your commitment to international development."
“Congratulations to Cindy on a remarkable speed skating career”, added the President of the Canadian Olympic Committee, Marcel Aubut. “You inspired our nation with your tremendous performance in Torino and have since deservedly won countless awards and accolades with records still standing to this day. It is an honour to celebrate you as one of Canada’s most decorated Olympians. On behalf of the Canadian Olympic Committee, I wish you the best in the next chapter of your life.”
Incredible 2003 and 2006 seasons
Building on the momentum of her first Olympic medal in 2002, Cindy Klassen put together in 2002-2003 one of the finest seasons by a Canadian athlete on the World Cup speed skating circuit with 13 gold medals, three silver and five bronze.
She concluded that season by winning the overall World Cup 1500m title and the overall title at the World Allround Championships, becoming the first Canadian in 27 years to be crowned champion in that latter competition. A month earlier, she finished second overall at the World Sprint Championships, despite not being considered a speed skating “sprinter”. It was the first time in 15 years that a skater won overall medals at both championships in the same year.
In 2006, following her outstanding performance at the Olympic Games, Cindy Klassen concluded her season by winning the overall title at the World Allround Championships with a golden sweep of all four distances. She was also crowned World Cup Champion for the 3000m event.
Cindy Klassen’s tremendous accomplishments that year earned her the 2006 Lou Marsh Trophy as Canadian Athlete of the Year.
“There are too many good memories to name them all,” admitted Cindy Klassen. “However, I do have a lot of fond memories from the 2006 season. That whole year, 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. No matter how hard the program, or how brutal the training camps were, we always made sure to have fun. I am so grateful for the friendships I’ve formed through skating that will last a lifetime.”
Nine-time World Champion
In her 15 years of competitive speed skating, Cindy Klassen won a total of 115 international medals: 46 gold, 41 silver and 28 bronze. She was crowned World Champion nine times.
Throughout her career, Cindy Klassen won three gold, four silver and four bronze medals at the World Single Distance Championships, as she was crowned World Champion in the 1500m and 3000m events in 2005, and in the team pursuit competition in 2011 with Christine Nesbitt and Brittany Schussler.
At the World Allround Championships, she was declared overall champion in 2003 and 2006, while finishing second in 2002 and 2005, and third in 2007.
She was awarded the overall World Cup 1500m title in 2003 and 2005, and the 3000m title in 2006.
At the World Sprint Championships, she finished second overall in 2003 and third in 2007.
She also broke seven international records, including six world records.
She still holds the world record in the 1500m (1:51.79), which she broke on November 20, 2005, after improving it twice before. She is also still the record holder for the 3000m distance, which she broke March 18, 2006, skating to a time of 3:53.34, which beat her previous record by more than two seconds.
She also set the 1000m world record for the first time on March 24, 2006, in Calgary, before breaking it the day after with a time of 1:13.11. Her former teammate Christine Nesbitt then broke it January 28, 2012. Brittany Bowe of the U.S.A. is now the record holder.
Cindy Klassen also broke international records within the Canadian pursuit team.
Along with Nesbitt and Kristina Groves, she set the Olympic record by clocking a time of 3:01.24 at the 2006 Games. Eight years later in Sochi in 2014, the Netherlands beat that mark.
Finally, on November 14, 2004, Klassen, Groves and Hughes beat the world record in Team Pursuit with a time of 3:05.49. Thanks to Groves, Nesbitt and Brittany Schussler, Canada is still the world record holder with a time of 2:55.79, which they clocked in December 2009.
A great athlete
Before Cindy Klassen fell in love with speed skating, she showed promise in a number of other sports.
At 15 years old, she competed for Canada at the 1994 Commonwealth Games in Victoria, B.C., as a member of the women’s Field Lacrosse Team. In 1996, she was selected as part of Canada’s National Junior Women’s Hockey Team. She then competed for Canada in In-line Skating at the 1999 Pan American Games in her hometown of Winnipeg.
Now living in Calgary, Cindy Klassen is in her last year of studies. Her goal is to earn a degree in psychology at the University of Calgary.
“I would like to thank my family and especially my parents for all their support and love. But also, amongst the hundred people I feel like I have to thank, there is my first coaches Anne Mushumanski and Lori Derraugh; as well as coaches Neal Marshall, Moira Marshall (D’Andrea) and Mike Murray; former teammates Susan Auch, Brittany Schussler and Tara Risling; support staff members Derek Robinson, Matt Jordan and Stu McMillan; as well as Steve Sellers.”
“I would also like to thank Speed Skating Canada, the Canadian Olympic Committee, the Calgary Olympic Oval, all the support staff, Mark Mathies, Vic Janzen, the Canadian Sport Centre Manitoba, the Canadian Sport Institute Calgary, my agents from Landmark Sport Group Elliott Kerr, Sharon Podatt and George Sourlis, plus the wonderful sponsor support from MTS Allstream, McDonald’s, Sony Canada and Oakley.”
More information can be found on Speed Skating Canada’s website: www.speedskating.ca.