Clara Hughes’ athletic career sets the bar for excellence in terms of both achievement and longevity. She is not only Manitoba’s most accomplished Olympian but arguably Canada’s greatest as well. Consider the facts of her incredible athletic journey.
A six-time Olympic medalist in cycling and speed skating, she is the only athlete in history to win multiple medals at both Summer and Winter Games. Not in Canada, not in North America… in the entire world. From Hughes’ first Olympic Games in 1996 to her last this past summer in London, which is 16 years at the apex of athletic excellence.
But when you meet her, you quickly discover that personal success means more to her than just her medals. It has become a platform for a voice to reach out and help others. She has given generously of herself, both as a volunteer and monetarily, to Right to Play and programs for at-risk youth. She is also a spokesperson for Bell Let’s Talk to raise awareness in an effort to break down the stigma associated with depression and promote mental health. By giving back and connecting to her community and the world at large, Hughes shows how it is possible to achieve one’s very best on and off the playing field.
A 35-time national champion in Road and Track Cycling and Speed Skating, Clara Hughes was born in Winnipeg and graduated from Elmwood High School. In cycling alone, she collected seven medals at three Pan American Games and another three medals at two Commonwealth Games from 1991 to 2003.Though she did not place at the 1991 Canada Winter Games in Charlottetown, PEI, she would go on to compete at the World Championships where she won a silver in 1995 and finished 5th in 2011. At the 1996 Games in Atlanta, Hughes won double Olympic bronze in the road race and time trial. At the 2012 Games in London, she finished 5th despite battling a serious back injury from a crash earlier in the year.
Her speed skating resume is equally impressive. She set a Canadian record in the 10,000m with a time of 14:19.73. Between 2003 and 2010 she captured 13 World Cup medals in the 3000m, 5000m and Team Pursuit. At the World Championships Hughes won one gold, three silver and a bronze in the 5000m and another silver medal in the Team Pursuit. At the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City, she won bronze in the 5000m to join a select few to medal in both Summer and Winter games. In Torino at the 2006 Games, she captured gold in the 5000m and silver in the Team Pursuit. At home in Vancouver in 2010 she added another bronze in her favorite event and was chosen as Canada’s flag bearer.
Inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame and Canada’s Walk of Fame in 2010, Clara Hughes is also an Officer in the Order of Canada and an inspiration to all Canadians.
“I get to inspire young people and older people and, I think, inspire to live with an open heart” said Hughes, “that’s really all I hope for when I think of what it all means, what it has all meant.”
Hughes is also a member of the Speed Skating Canada Hall of Fame.