Olympian Cindy Klassen is top Canadian at the Regional Qualifier speed skating competition at the Olympic Oval

Calgary, AB - - Six-time Olympic medalist Cindy Klassen finished the Regional Qualifier speed skating competition this weekend at the Olympic Oval as Canada’s top skater, with four second place finishes in the four-race event.

“My last race, the 5,000 metre, was my best race of the weekend so I was really happy to finish on a good note,” said Klassen, 28, from Winnipeg, Man. She finished the 5,000 in 7:02.97.

“It is great to get in some good, hard races before the next two world cups and the world allround championships.”

Klassen won five Olympic medals at the 2006 Olympics and was called the ‘woman of the Games”. So far this season, she has won two silver medals in world cup competition, in the 3,000 metres and team pursuit.

Canadian women dominated American competitors this weekend, winning the top four overall spots, with Christine Nesbitt, from London, Ont., second overall, Kristina Groves, from Ottawa, Ont., third, and Clara Hughes, from Winnipeg, Man., fourth.

In today’s 1,500 and 5,000 metre races, Nesbitt was first in the 1,500 in 1:55.32, Klassen was second in 1:56.23 and Groves was third in 1:58.10. Clara Hughes, the Olympic gold medalist in the 5,000, was first in the distance with the only time under seven minutes, 6:53.04. Klassen was second again in 7:02.97 and American Catherine Raney was third in 7:05.45.

The 5,000 metres was the only distance to have an American woman break the top three.

In men’s competition, Olympic medalist Shani Davis won every distance of the competition and was the top overall male speed skater. Canada’s Steven Elm, from Red Deer, Alta., was second overall.

Today, Elm, 32, was second in the 10,000 metres in 13:37.93 and fourth in the 1,500 metres in 1:46.80. Yesterday, he was third in the 500 metres and fourth in the 5,000.

“My 10,000 metre race today was good. It is nice to skate a quick time and hopefully it is a good indicator for world cup and world single distances competition,” said Elm, an Olympic silver medalist in the team pursuit. “Hopefully the training I get from this race will pay off more as the season goes on. Skating hard for 25 laps makes my shorter races feel a bit easier, plus this builds a good base.”

Canada’s other male skaters, Arne Dankers, from Calgary, Alta., Philippe Riopel, from Lachenaie, Que., and Jay Morrison, from Fort St. John, B.C., ranked fourth, fifth and sixth overall.

The Olympic Oval Regional Qualifier is used to qualify Canada and the U.S.A. for eight men’s and six women’s spots to compete at the 2008 ISU World Allround Championships, Feb. 9 and 10 in Berlin, Germany. Canada’s men secured four spots based on results from last season’s World Allround Championship competition, while the ladies raced to secure four of the six women’s spots.

Canada’s World Cup team heads to Europe this week for the first winter World Cup in Hamar, Norway, Jan. 25-27. Canada’s best sprinters, such as Jeremy Wotherspoon, are in Heerenveen, Netherlands, for the ISU World Sprint Speed Skating Championships, which start next weekend, Jan. 19-20.

Original article: www.oval.ucalgary.ca