Canada wins pursuit gold at speed skating World Cup, bronze for Klassen & Morrison

Canada won the gold medal on Saturday in the men’s 3,200-metre pursuit while Cindy Klassen of Winnipeg and Denny Morrison of Fort St. John, B.C., posted bronze medal performances at a long track speed skating World Cup competition.

In the men’s pursuit, Morrison, Arne Dankers of Calgary and Steven Elm of Red Deer, Alta., took the gold in three minutes and 46.08 seconds. All three were part of Canada’s silver medal winning pursuit team here at last year’s Olympics. Russia was second in 3:47.86 and Italy, the Olympic champion, was third in 3:48.22.

“Arne Dankers put forth the idea we should try our best to even split our laps rather than start out fast,” said Morrison. “That seemed to work really well for us. We were disappointed with our first pursuit race earlier this season so it was nice to comeback and put on a really good show.”

In the women’s 3,000, Martina Sablikova took the gold medal in 4:03.88 to move into the lead in the World Cup standings. Olympic champion Ireen Wust of the Netherlands was second in 4:04.40 and Klassen third in 4:05.56.

“I was happy with the result, it hurt a lot, and at the end I was feeling pretty nauseous,” said Klassen. “I went out hard and I think it’ll help me next weekend at the worlds. I needed to get a longer distance race in there.”

Clara Hughes of Winnipeg was sixth and Kristina Groves, named the City of Ottawa’s female athlete of the year on Thursday, was seventh. Brittany Schussler of Winnipeg was second in the B final with Shannon Sibold of Calgary ninth.

Klassen, who started her World Cup season last weekend, raced against Hughes in the first pair of the day. It was the first World Cup 3,000 metre race for both this season.

“It’s nice to race someone that you know,” Klassen said. “I feel like we both pushed each other and Clara had a very good race as well.”

It was a special day for Klassen who returned to the oval where she won five Olympic medals last year including a bronze in the 3,000.

“It just brings back a lot of great memories,” she said. “The oval here is so beautiful. It’s different because they’ve taken a lot of things down. But it’s a great place to race and it’s been fun.”

In the men’s 1,500, Olympic champion Enrico Fabris of Italy was the winner in 1:44.97 with Erben Wennemars of the Netherlands second in 1:45.06 and Morrison third in 1:46.07.

“That was a big improvement over my performances earlier in the season,” said Morrison, currently third in the World Cup standings. “The training I’ve done is really starting to pay off and it’s setting me up well for the world championships next weekend. I’m skating the way I want to right now.”

Francois-Olivier Roberge of St-Nicholas, Que., was seventh, Arne Dankers of Calgary ninth, Steven Elm of Red Deer, Alta., 11th and Justin Warsylewicz of Regina 13th.

Competition ends Sunday.