Ticket to sporting shrine thrills constable Klassen
Speed-skating legend makes smooth transition to police work
After nearly two years as a Calgary police officer, retired Olympic speed skater Cindy Klassen is still surprised when she makes a traffic stop and the driver being disciplined recognizes her.
Klassen’s six career medals are the most of any Canadian winter Olympian, but even best-in-class speed skaters rarely enjoy the mainstream stardom that turns athletes into household names. Klassen, now 38, hasn’t competed since 2015, and sometimes forgets that many Calgarians still find her face familiar.
Thursday night in Toronto she was recognized again.
Klassen was one of nine sports figures added to Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in a formal induction ceremony. During a midday news conference she said this latest honour caps a year of reflection on her career.
“I’ve had a chance to think about . . . my teammates and my coaches, all those people that pushed me to higher and higher heights,” Klassen said. “And thinking about my family, too. I have two other siblings, and our parents would just drive us around from practice to practice. I feel like they didn’t have a life of their own. They were just so supportive.”
This year’s class features several athletes well-known to casual sports fans.
“The first 10 minutes, I wish I was out there again.” CINDY KLASSEN ON WATCHING SPEED SKATING IN CALGARY 11 YEARS AFTER WINNING FIVE OLYMPIC MEDALS IN TURIN
Golfer Mike Weir is included, as are 2000 Olympic triathlon champ Simon Whitfield and Hockey Hall of Famer Lanny McDonald, who totalled 1,006 points in his 16-year career.
“It’s very special to be part of this new team we’re all on,” McDonald said at the news conference. “I have a whole new family in this room.”
It also features honourees who made their biggest impressions off the field. Neurosurgeon Dr. Charles Tator was inducted in recognition of his research on spinal cord injuries and concussions, and Dr. Robert Jackson founded Canada’s Paralympic movement.
The hall is also honouring pioneers including Gaylord Powless, the lacrosse legend from Six Nations who starred on pro and senior amateur teams across the continent in the 1960s and 1970s. The Edmonton Grads women’s basketball team also earned a spot. Before women’s basketball became an official Olympic sport, the Grads represented Canada at every Games between 1924 and 1936, going 27-0 but never receiving a medal. The club’s lone surviving player, 95-yearold Kay MacBeth, attended Thursday’s news conference and paid tribute to her teammates.
“To think I’m the last one, it’s not fair,” she said. “There are some great players I played with . . . without them I certainly wouldn’t be here.”
This year’s class also includes Carol Huynh, the wrestler who won Olympic gold in 2008 and silver in 2012.
And then there was Klassen, who won five medals at the 2006 Olympics — going on to win the Lou Marsh Trophy as Canada’s top athlete — and still holds the 3,000-metre world record.
After retiring she pondered her career options while working toward her undergrad degree in psychology at the University of Calgary. Growing up in Winnipeg, Klassen played hockey and dreamed of becoming a police officer. As she matured, speed skating became both her sport and her career, and by the time she stopped competing she figured she was too old to pursue policing.
Then she attended an information session and learned she was still plenty young enough to undergo training and earn a job with the service, so she did just that.
Klassen acknowledges that transitioning to her new job also meant making concessions to age and lingering physical damage from a career in pro sports. Her bad knees, for example, will keep her from engaging in high-speed foot chases.
When not working, Klassen still finds time to watch high-level speedskating competitions at Calgary’s Olympic Oval. She says the on-ice action often causes a competitive fire to flicker within her — briefly.
“The first 10 minutes, I wish I was out there again,” she said. “Then I remember all the hard work. I’m a bit too old for that.”