Of all of the tremendous athletes Manitoba has produced, none has had more impact on the international stage as Cindy Klassen with six Olympic medals in long track speed skating over her career, including five at the 2006 Games in Torino, Italy.
One of Canada’s most successful athletes, Klassen won the hearts of all Canadians at the 2006 Olympic Winter Games, winning gold in the 1,500m, silver in the 1,000m and the Team Pursuit event and bronze in the 3,000m and 5,000m races.
She remains the only Canadian athlete to win five medals at a single Olympic Games with IOC president Jacques Rogge calling her the “Woman of the Games”. She was also the Canadian team flag bearer at the 2006 Olympic Games closing ceremonies.
She won her first Olympic medal, a bronze in the 3,000m, at the 2002 Olympic Games in Salt Lake City. Her total of six career medals ties her with former teammate and fellow Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame inductee Clara Hughes (2012) as the most decorated Manitoba Olympic athlete.
Following her outstanding performance at the 2006 Olympics, Klassen won the overall title at the World Allround Championships with a golden sweep of all four distances. She was also crowned World Cup Champion for the 3,000m event. She was named the 2006 Lou Marsh Trophy as Canadian Athlete of the Year and was Manitoba Female Athlete of the Year four times.
Building on the momentum of her first Olympic medal in 2002, Klassen put together in 2002-2003 one of the finest seasons by a Canadian on the World Cup speed skating circuit with 13 gold medals, three silver and five bronze.
She won the overall World Cup 1,500m title and the overall title at the World Allround Championships, the first Canadian champion in 27 years. A month earlier, she finished second overall at the World Sprint Championships, despite not being considered a sprinter. It was the first time in 15 years that a skater won overall medals at both championships in the same year.
In her 15 years of competitive speed skating, Cindy Klassen won a total of 115 international medals: 46 gold, 41 silver and 28 bronze. She was crowned World Champion nine times.
Klassen retired from speed skating in 2015, still holding world records in the 1,500m and 3,000m and the Canadian mark in the 5,000m.