Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Klassen going on hiatus

Year break from skating could become permanent

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Looking back, it seems to Cindy Klassen the last 12 years sped by so fast, like the flash of her skates as she blazed around the track.

Now, the iconic Winnipeg speedskater may have already raced her last race.

On Tuesday, Klassen announced she would take a hiatus from skating for the 2014-15 season, a pause that could become permanent. In some ways, it's hard to believe it's already time.

"When I started, I thought, 'This is going to go on forever,' " said Klassen from Calgary on Tuesday evening. "All of a sudden, I'm 34 years old and I'm contemplating whether I'm going to retire. It went by so fast."

'I just felt like I wanted to take a break, let my body rest and heal up from all the different injuries over the years. And make sure that when I make the decision I make (about retirement), that I'm 100 per cent sure'

-- Cindy Klassen

Today, the snapshots of Klassen's golden Olympic Games are yet so bright, almost too vivid to belong to history.

But the Turin Olympics were eight years ago already. The years since took a toll on her body, culminating in a 2008 double-knee surgery that knocked her out of competition for almost two years.

She recovered then, enough to race in the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, where just competing was triumph enough. The next year, she helped carry the Canadian skaters to team pursuit gold at the world championships in 2011 and silver in 2012. But the wear and tear of the sport gets harder each year.

Hence, the hiatus this season.

"I just felt like I wanted to take a break, let my body rest and heal up from all the different injuries over the years," she said. "And make sure that when I make the decision I make (about retirement), that I'm 100 per cent sure."

In the meantime, there are other dreams.

Klassen is studying psychology at the University of Calgary. That degree has been a long time in the making with the time she's had to dedicate to skatin and she's excited about finishing.

After she gets her degree, she mused, she might enter the seminary, and delve deeper into her faith.

"After high school, a lot of my friends went to bible school, but I just went into skating and I didn't get the chance," Klassen said. "I really don't know. I'm just praying, and asking for guidance."

So maybe this will be the last time she hangs up her skates, or maybe it won't. With six Olympic medals -- tied with fellow Manitoban Clara Hughes for Canada's most decorated Olympian -- and two standing world records to her name, it's not like she has anything left to prove.

"I really feel at peace with it right now," Klassen said. "I'm happy I'm doing this, so I can reflect over all the years of skating. All the pros, all the cons. If I went back, it would just be year by year, and just because I love the sport."

melissa.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 21, 2014 D6

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