Klassen gearing up for Games

The Rolling Stones famously sang that you can’t always get what you want, and in Cindy Klassen’s case, that’s turned out to be a good thing.

The most decorated Olympian in Canadian history was in Abbotsford on Wednesday morning, speaking to a group of fans at a fundraising breakfast for the Columbia Bible College athletic program.

During her speech, Klassen revealed that her original dream was to crack the roster of Canada’s Olympic women’s hockey team. But in 1997, one year before the Nagano Games, she was cut at a tryout camp.

“When I got cut, I was devastated,” Klassen said. “I questioned God.

“But (hockey) wasn’t in his plan for my life.”

The following year, Klassen’s parents prevailed upon her to give speed skating a shot. At first, she was far from a natural.

“I didn’t really want to put on that tight skin suit,” the Winnipeg native said with a chuckle. “And I could barely stand up on the skates. Little five-year-olds were flying past me.”

Klassen, of course, ended up finding her form in a big way. In 2002, she climbed the Olympic podium in Salt Lake City to collect a bronze medal in the 3,000 metres.

Her major breakthrough came during the 2006 Olympics in Torino, Italy. Klassen won a gold, two silver and two bronze medals, becoming the first Canadian to win five medals in a single Olympics.

Klassen’s career has endured some turbulence in the years since. In 2008, she cut her competitive season short after her sister Lisa was nearly killed in a car accident in Manitoba. And she missed all of last season after undergoing knee surgery.

These days, Klassen is focused on getting back into race shape, with the goal of representing Canada at the Vancouver Olympics in February. The 30-year-old participated in her first practice race last week, and said her knees are responding well.

“I’m feeling pretty strong,” said Klassen, who will participate in Canadian Olympic team trials in December. “It’s hard to tell where I’m at, but it’s looking promising.”