Canadian Speed Skater Inaugurates Bethlehem Women's Gym

Women's participation in sports is still relatively unusual in Palestinian society, which encourages gender separation in much of public life.

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Canadian speed skater Cindy Klassen, a six-time Olympic medalist, has helped inaugurate a $1.2 million indoor gym for Palestinian women in the biblical town of Bethlehem.

Women's participation in sports is still relatively unusual in Palestinian society, which encourages gender separation in much of public life.

Several women's soccer teams have formed, but they lack training facilities.

The 1,300-square-meter (14,000-square-feet) sports center opened Sunday, with funding from Canadian Lutheran World Relief and the Mt. Calvary Lutheran Church in the Canadian city of Calgary. The center will also offer space to volleyball and basketball teams as well as tennis players.

Klassen, 34, says that "women here in the West Bank don't get many opportunities in sports." She says she hopes the center will enable Palestinian women to train and build confidence.

Canada's Cindy Klassen reacts after racing in the Winter Olympics women's 1,500 meter speedskating competition in Turin, Italy, Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2006.Credit: AP

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