Cindy Klassen runs out of time for Sochi Olympics
6-time Olympic medallist hasn't decided on future
Cindy Klassen will not be making a fourth consecutive Olympic appearance.
Klassen, 34, announced the decision officially this week, but the speed skater has come to terms with the outcome over a period of weeks after a slow recovery from a fall in a summertime inline skating accident.
The Winnipeg native was wearing a helmet, but suffered a concussion with symptoms which lingered through the autumn months.
“It was hard especially through the months of November just trying to decide what to do because it seemed like every time I was training I’d get some symptoms,” said Klassen.
“Now I feel great, I feel like I’ve overcome the symptoms but it’s just way too late, so I have to just let this one go.”
Klassen, who hasn’t been among the top 10 skaters in the world in awhile, said there’s simply not enough days left to get times down to where they need to be to qualify.
The Olympic speed skating trials for the Canadian team begin at the Calgary Oval on Dec. 28.
Klassen has as strong a case as anyone for greatest Canadian Olympic career, and especially for the greatest performance by a Canadian at a single Olympics.
Klassen won bronze at the 2002 Olympics only about five years after taking up the sport in earnest. In Torino four years later, she was the “Woman of the Games," to quote IOC president Jacques Rogge.
Klassen won individual medals at the 2006 Olympics in all four distances between 1,000 and 3,000 metres and was on the podium with teammates in pursuit. Her total of five medals (one gold, one silver, three bronze) is unmatched for a Canadian at a single Olympics.
Klassen’s medals from those two Winter Games, in addition to getting to experience competing on home soil at the Vancouver Olympics, mean there’s nothing left to prove for the woman who still holds the world record in the 1,500 and the 3,000.
But she’s a fervent supporter of the Olympic movement, which spurred on her Sochi ambitions.
“It’s such an honour to go to the Olympics and represent your country, it’s the most amazing feeling to have a Canadian flag on your back, or wearing the Canadian skin suit, and the Canadian gear in the ceremonies,” she said.
It has long been known that Klassen is a person of deep faith who trusts there’s a greater plan at work. She had designs on being one of the first women’s hockey Olympians in the 1990s, but taking up speed skating to enhance those ambitions led her down a different path.
Her faith has allowed her to overcome serious injuries since Torino, and the tense times after her sister nearly died in a 2008 car accident.
So she’s not committing to any definite plans right now, or something as permanent as announcing her retirement.
Whether it's training on the ice again in the new year for the Calgary Oval season finale or going back to school, or something altogether different, she believes she'll have her answer in due time.