Team Manitoba’s long track speed skating squad has some star power on their coaching staff.
Cindy Klassen, the legendary speed skater from Winnipeg who won six Olympic medals, is helping out the next generation of Manitoba speed skaters at the Canada Winter Games in Red Deer as an assistant coach for the Herd.
“It’s been awesome,” she said. “It’s brought back so many memories for me coming back to the Canada Games. To be able to be a part of Team Manitoba and seeing how excited these athletes are to race and seeing them performing at their best, it inspires me and it’s inspiring all the families and friends who have come out to watch.”
Klassen competed for Manitoba at three Canada Games (1995, 1999, 2001). She said it’s a little different this time around as a coach.
“Going in as an athlete, you know what you need to do,” said Klassen, now 39. “But as a coach there’s so many different elements, like thinking about each athlete individually and as a team as well, and then different strategies.”
“It’s definitely a challenge.”
Speed skating has been the highlight for Manitoba in Red Deer. The province has an astounding eight long track medals, including seven golds—four from Tyson Langelaar and three from Alexa Scott.
Klassen sees a lot of potential in the next generation of Manitoba speed skaters, beyond just the medal winners.
“We have a really young team here,” she said. “If you look at that and then the other skaters coming up who weren’t even eligible, we have a strong group of skaters coming up that’ll be going on to the next Canada Games and even going further on to the national team, Olympics and things like that.”
Klassen now lives in Calgary and works as a police officer. Despite staying involved with the sport, she does miss the rush of competition.
“It’s always exciting to watch competitions. When I see them racing I feel like I want to be out there but then I remember how hard it was and now my body’s kind of of falling apart, so I’m kind of happy to be on the side,” she laughed.