Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Klassen shakes off rust after layoff

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Between rehab sessions for her surgically repaired knees last winter, Cindy Klassen actually found herself with time on her hands.

Typically, Canada's most decorated Olympian is busy dominating her speedskating rivals at that time of year. But once she decided to shut things down to extend her recovery period, her calendar suddenly had some big holes in it.

"I spent a lot of time at home in Winnipeg, which was nice," she said Wednesday from Richmond, B.C., where she's busy preparing for the upcoming season.

"I got to see my family quite a bit, which is unusual because we're usually on the road and I spend most of my time in Calgary. Also, I was really fortunate to spend more time than normal plugged in to my church in Calgary. We have a small group there that I was a part of and it was great to have that support."

That combination of family and faith helped her through the trying times that followed the surgeries on both knees last summer, and helped bring her peace of mind as she embarked on the difficult journey that lies between her and the Vancouver Olympics.

During the surgeries, ligaments and tendons were repaired, kneecaps scraped and scar tissue removed. One knee was damaged playing high school basketball, the other from 10 seasons competing and training as a world-class skater.

Klassen's back on the ice now, trying to regain the fitness, power and form that allowed her to win a Canadian-record five medals at the 2006 Turin Games (she has six in her career). So far, so good she says of her training sessions at the Richmond Olympic Oval.

"Things are going well," said Klassen. "It's definitely been a struggle, it was hard not being on the ice for so long, but right now I'm able to train hard and I've been on the ice a lot.

"As soon as I had the surgery I wanted to get on the ice and test (the knees). I felt like I was always kind of testing them and it depended how they were feeling on whether I could keep pushing it or if I should hold back a little bit.

"I was anxious to get on the ice and try them out but they seem to be holding up pretty well right now."

Her schedule in the leadup to the Winter Games is a work in progress. The speedskating team has some practice races planned for September and after that she'll start thinking about how many World Cup events she'll take part in.

Just the thought of competing again gets her going.

"I'm just excited to race, it's been so long," she said. "I can't wait to step up to the line, feeling those nerves when you hear the starter, it's such a neat feeling."

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 20, 2009 C5

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