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Derraugh joins the club

Speedskater cracks Team Canada lineup

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Tyler DERRAUGH recalled the first time he first laid eyes on Cindy Klassen. The Canadian Olympic gold medallist was at her first speedskating practice, and Derraugh's mother Lori was one of her coaches with the Winnipeg Speed Skating Club.

"Cindy was wearing slush pants, a hockey helmet and great big sweater," said Derraugh, who was 12 years old at the time. "I wondered, who is this, and it turned out to be Cindy Klassen."

His mother remembered the moment, adding that Klassen was having a devil of a time on the long blades, having only ever skated on hockey skates previously. "Other kids were skating circles around her, and she was laughing so much."

On Thursday, Derraugh took off for Heerenveen, Netherlands, to attend his first World Cup speedskating competition.

Guess who just happens to be one of his Team Canada teammates?

Cindy Klassen.

Other Manitobans who made the Canadian team announced Thursday by Speed Skating Canada are Shannon Rempel, Brittany Schussler and Matt McLean, all veterans to the World Cup circuit.

"I grew up with Shannon and Brittany," said the now 24-year-old Derraugh. "I went to school with Brittany."

One could wonder why it took Derraugh so long to break into the international long track circuit.

The fact is that up until the 2010 Olympic trials, he had devoted his efforts (for six years) to short track. An accident during the Olympic trials, however, changed the direction of his career.

"I suffered a concussion from a crash at the Olympic trials," he said. "I got taken out by another Canadian skater. After that I decided I'd go with long track, where people couldn't get in my way."

He credits his rise to the national team in only a year partially to his experience on the short track.

"The tight turns in short track make long-track corners feel easy," he said.

"For me, while some people feel like they are out of control at top speed on the long track, I'm comfortable keeping going."

His selection to the Canadian team was based on recent performances, which included placing fourth overall in the 500- and 1,000-metre races at the Canadian Single Distance Championship and Canada Cup 2 in Calgary, Jan. 6-9. Overall he placed third, and will be the first alternate at the World Sprint Championship in Heerenveen this weekend.

"My mother was a huge influence and driving force on me, keeping me motivated," said Derraugh, adding she was the Canadian short track champion in 1975 and '77 and also the North American champion in 1977.

"She coached me my whole childhood and always supported me, even if it was short track, which she wasn't too keen on (me participating). She couldn't watch me race because she didn't want me get hurt."

Derraugh will make his international debut at the World Cup event in Moscow Jan. 28-30. While there Derraugh will attempt to qualify for the final World Cup event of the season (Heerenveen, March 4-6) and the world single distance championships (Inzell, Germany, March 10-13).

allan.besson@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 21, 2011 C4

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