Life More than Skating and Sports, Olympic Athlete
Cindy Klassen Tells Youth Conference
Speaks at Peace It Together at Canadian
By Aaron Epp
It takes a lot to win a gold medal in speed skating at the Olympics. But more
than the cardiovascular training, weightlifting and practice laps, Cindy Klassen
says it’s her faith in God that gets her through a race.
|Olympic speed skater Cindy Klassen talks to Abe Bergen, CMU
Director of Admissions, at the CMU Peace-It-Together youth conference.
“When I go to the line, [my faith] helps me because I know
this is where He wants me to be,” Klassen, 28, told high students from across
Canada on March 8 at the annual Peace-It-Together conference at Canadian
Mennonite University (CMU) in Winnipeg.
“Every time I go out . . . I know I’m doing it for Him and
not for me. That takes a bit of the pressure off.”
Growing up in a Christian home, Klassen said that God was
always at the centre. When she played hockey as a teenager and had to practice
on Sundays, her family made sure she at least got to attend the church
service—even if that meant being late for practice.
That dedication to faith was evident when Klassen’s younger sister, Lisa, was
in a single-vehicle car accident at the beginning of February that saw her
vehicle tumble 15 metres off a Winnipeg bridge on to the frozen Red River.
Klassen, who was in Berlin at the time, said it was the prayer support the
family received that helped them persevere during the ordeal.
“Our whole family—we just felt like God was lifting us up,” she said, noting
her sister is now out of the hospital and was even well enough to attend a
recent Manitoba Moose hockey game. “It’s just great to see how prayer works.”
Klassen’s parents not only encouraged her in her faith, but they also
encouraged her to pursue sports. When she was two, her father made her a hockey
stick. Everyday after work work, Klassen insisted her father play road hockey
with her until it was time to go inside for supper.
She had her sights set on playing hockey for Canada in the 1998 Olympics and,
in 1997, got a call to try out for the women’s team. She didn’t make it.
“I was devastated,” Klassen said. “I thought this was God’s plan for my
Since she had always been a strong skater, her parents suggested she try
speed skating. She said her first attempt at the sport was a humbling
experience. The difference in the blade size on the skates made her shake, and
she could barely stand up. She was 18 years old, and kids only a third her age
were zipping by her.
Klassen persevered, and by 1999 was accomplished enough to earn herself a
spot on Canada’s junior national team. During the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin,
Italy, she became the first Canadian Olympian to win five medals in one Olympic
Games, and the only Canadian with six Olympic medals.
When asked how she’s experienced God in times of such great success, Klassen
recalled the World Singles skating competition in Germany in 2005. After winning
both the 1,500- and 3,000-metre races, she went to her dressing room and “broke
“I didn’t understand why I’d been so fortunate to do so well,” Klassen
explained. She knows, however, that God played a big part. “It’s neat to do
well, but I couldn’t have done it without God.”
Klassen is currently taking a break from the competition season to spend time
with family in Winnipeg while her sister recovers from her injuries. She will
rejoin her team mates in Calgary in May for the beginning of training—she
already has her sights set on the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, where
everyone will be watching to see if she can repeat her victories.
“I’m fortunate because I can give that up to God,” she said of the pressure
placed on her to repeat. She added that her status as an Olympic speed skater
provides an opportunity to witness in the face of victory or defeat, and also
makes facing the pressure easier. Whether she wins or loses, Klassen said, “life
“[Life] isn’t about skating, it’s not about sports—it’s about more than
that,” she said.
Asked what advice she would give to young Christian high school students, the
McIvor Mennonite Brethren Church member said: “Stay close to God and make sure
He’s number one in your life. If you’re listening to Him and you’re praying,
you’ll be amazed with the things He’ll do in your life.”
Posted March 15, 2008.
For more information contact the CMU Communications Director, 500 Shaftesbury Blvd., Winnipeg, Manitoba R3P 2N2, telephone: 204-487-3300 ext. 630, fax: 204-889-1694,(www.cmu.ca)