Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Canadian Athlete With a Vision

Clara Hughes, OC OM MSC...born in Winnipeg, Manitoba
September 27, 1972 is a Canadian cyclist and speed skater
who has won multiple Olympic medals in both sports.

As a youth, she smoked cigarettes, drank a lot and did a lot of drugs...not envisioning herself as a athlete. She was inspired to begin skating after witnessing Gaetan Boucher at the 1988 Winter Olympics. Starting with speed skating, in 1990 she moved to competitive cycling, competing in track cycling and road cycling. Eventually she returned to the sport of speed skating at the age of 28, after achieving success in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. With her experience and endurance earned through cycling, Hughes went on to a successful career competing in the 3,000 m and 5,000 m. At the age of 38, she successfully returned for the 2012 Summer Olympics held in London, England.

For Clara, success means more than earning medals.
It means having a voice and using the opportunity
to reach out and help others.
After winning gold in 2006, Clara donated $10,000 of her personal savings to the Right to Play programs. This donation challenged Canadians to support the cause...raising over a half-million dollars for the international humanitarian organization that uses sport for development. In 2010, she donated her $10,000 medal bonus to the Vancouver inner city school program...Take a Hike...which uses adventure based learning to give youth at risk a better direction in life.

She is the National Spokesperson for Bell Canada's Mental Health initiative & the Let's Talk campaign.
By sharing past struggles with depression, Clara has helped break down the stigma associated with all forms of mental illness. ***
Road Racing Medals Achieved
Olympic Games: Bronze~1996 Atlanta (Road Race) and Bronze~1996 Atlanta (Time Trial)
World Championships: Silver~1995 Tunja (Time Trial)
Commonwealth Games: Gold~ 2002 Manchester (Time Trial)
Pan American Games: Gold~2003 Santo Domingo (Points Race); Silver~1995 Mar del Plata (Road Race); Silver~2003 S. Domingo (Time Trial); Bronze~1995 Mar del Plata (Time Trial)
Pan American Championships: Gold~2011 (Medellin); Gold~(Medellin)
Track Cycling Medals Achieved
Commonwealth Games: Bronze 2002 Manchester (24 km Points Race)
Pan American Games: Silver 1991 Havana (Individual Pursuit)
Speed Skating Medals Achieved
Olympic Games: Gold~2006 Turin (5,000 m); Silver~(Team Pursuit); Bronze~2002 Salt Lake City (5,000m); Bronze~2010 Vancouver (5,000m).
World Championships: Gold~2004 Seoul (5,000m); Silver~2003 Berlin (5,000m); Silver~ 2008 Nagano (5,000m); Silver~2009 Vancouver (5,000m); Silver~2005 Inzell (Team Pursuit); Bronze~2005 Inzell (5,000m).
Clara's Vision
Her pursuit of excellence has carried her to the top of her field in both cycling and speed skating. Her determination, dignity and integrity are forces which have driven her to go beyond what most people would consider reasonable limits. By setting an example of sportsmanship and creating a supportive environment in every team she has been a part of, Clara has supported and aided in the growth and development of many young athletes. She has never lost the connection of what it was like to be inspired for the first time in her life. This inspiration came when she was 16 years old...from sport!

Honours Bestowed Upon Her
In 2006, she was awarded the Order of Manitoba and in 2007 a Member of the Order of Canada.
On May 23, 2008, she was awarded an Honourary Doctorate of Law from the University of Manitoba.
On February 12, 2010, she was the Canadian Olympic Team Flag Bearer for the Opening Ceremonies of the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver.
On April 7, 2010, she was made an officer of the Order of Canada.
On June 8, 2010, it was announced that she would receive a Star on Canada's Walk of Fame.
On September 23, 2010, she received an Honourary Degree from the University of New Brunswick.
On November 15, 2010, Hughes was inducted into Canada's Sports Hall of Fame.
On January 16, 2012, The Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women in Sport and Physical Activity (CAAWS) announced Hughes as one of twenty women selected to the Most Influential Women in Sport and Physical Activity (MIW) for 2011. The objective of the list is to focus on women who are leaders and role models making a difference on the Canadian or international scene.
On June 30, 2014, Hughes was honoured with the Meritorious Service Cross (Civil Division).

***Clara's Big Ride for “Let's Talk about Mental Illness”
Clara Hughes rode her bike 11,000 kilometres for 110 days around Canada from March 11 to July 1, 2014 (with a team of riding supporters) to get people talking about 'Mental Illness'. Clara Hughes, herself had struggled with deep depression at one stage in her career..and now speaks freely to assemblies about it...and how she overcame this setback.

The recent CTV presentation could have been all about cycling through hard crosswinds, driving snow and exhaustion; instead it provides the thread between stories told by Canadians affected by mental illness: a teacher who has depression, anxiety and panic attacks; a university student who attempted suicide; a community worker in Northern Canada trying to prevent youth suicide; a soldier with post-traumatic stress disorder. One woman, struggling with an eating disorder, was told by her doctor to 'just eat something.' Another with depression, says she was told by her physician to not talk about it because people would judge her. During this ride, ending at Parliament Hill in Ottawa on July 1, 2014 with a celebration, she had participated in 235 events held throughout her ride in 105 communities. Hughes felt she achieved her goal of 'starting a conversation' about mental illness and removing the fear of talking about it.

She and her husband, Peter Guzman, hiked 850 kilometres of the Appalachian Trail from December 3 to January 12, 2015, winter camping along the way. They intend to return to the trail in February and eventually complete the 3,746 kilometre trek that traverses 14 US states. “To be in such a public position for 110 days across Canada was something that I hadn't experienced quite honestly, it took an 850-kilometre very quiet hike with Peter to let it all settle in...and connect back with myself.
I always try to go back to something that allows me to struggle...and allows me to endure...and allows me to feel just a very silent satisfaction of having gotten through it.”

Clara's Philosophy
I have always believed that knowledge becomes wisdom when it is shared with others. By remaining open to to growing...and most importantly 'open to be inspired'...I've realized what it's like to live one's dreams for over 20 years in my sport. And this bodes me well for now and the future.

Scripted by Merle Baird-Kerr...January 28, 2015
To comment about to:


  1. MEG WRITES: "I have always loved Clara Hughes ~ she is one of my personal heroes. You wrote a lovely tribute about her...thank you for that."

  2. I was so privileged in meeting her...and instantly admired her for challenging her ambition. She, who has been through personal setbacks, has learned to cope with them and still remain 'on top of her game' through Olympic Games. She deserves every medal gained. And now challenges us all with her stand on 'mental illness' hope to thousands.
    Thank you, Meg, for your comments about this superb Canadian hero.