Ticket to sport­ing shrine thrills con­sta­ble Klassen

Speed-skat­ing leg­end makes smooth tran­si­tion to po­lice work

Toronto Star - - SPORTS - MOR­GAN CAMP­BELL SPORTS RE­PORTER

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.”

AN­DREW VAUGHAN/CP FILE PHOTO

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