Klassen & Groves reach podium at speed skating worlds

Olympic champion Cindy Klassen of Winnipeg and Kristina Groves of Ottawa won silver and bronze medals respectively on Thursday in the women’s 1,500-metres to open the world single distance championships in long track speed skating.

Ireen Wust of the Netherlands took the gold medal clocking 1:52.71 with Klassen, the defending champion, second in 1:53.40 and Groves third in 1:54.39. Christine Nesbitt of London, Ont., was sixth in 1:55.79.

‘’I felt stronger than last weekend (at the World Cup final) and overall I was very pleased with how it went,’’ said Klassen, who won five Olympic medals last year including gold in the 1,500. ‘’It was a typical 1,500 for me. It was consistent. I dropped times for each lap and had a good start.’’

Klassen didn’t race in the fall World Cups to continue training after a busy off season. ‘’I’m meeting my goals and it sets me up well for next season,’’ she said. Friday’s 3,000 will be Klassen’s final race of the season.

Groves kicked-off a busy weekend in strong fashion with her second fastest time ever at the distance. She’ll also race the 1,000, 3,000, 5,000 and pursuit. She raced in the last pair of the day with Paulien van Deutekom of the Netherlands who placed fifth.

‘’Going last is not so much of an advantage for me’’ said Groves, with her third career medal at the single distance worlds. ‘’ I tend to look at other people’s times. I like to think it doesn’t affect me but I probably had some higher expectations and wasn’t relaxed enough when I raced. Still I felt pretty good about the race, it was solid.’’

In the men’s 5,000, Arne Dankers of Calgary posted the best international result of his career with an impressive fourth place finish in 6:15.39, about a second off his personal best.

World record holder Sven Kramer of the Netherlands and Enrico Fabris of Italy, the last pair, were 1-2 respectively in 6:10.70 and 6:12.53. Carl Verheijen of the Netherlands was third in 6:15.21.

Dankers went in the third to last pair of the day and at that point was standing first. His pair, Tobias Schneider of Germany, was 23rd.

“There are advantages to being in a tight race with a pair or being on your own most of the race,’’ said Dankers. ‘’I was able to focus on what I was doing and not worry about the pair. When I was done, I was very pleased with my race and certainly thought a medal was possible. In the next pair, Verheijen appeared to be fading but he just got me in the end.’’

Justin Warsylewicz of Regina was eighth and Steven Elm of Red Deer, Alta., 13th.

Competition continues through to Sunday.