The Olympic dream of Clara Hughes began in 1988 when she caught her first glimpse of the Winter Games on television. Watching speed skaters glide around the oval inspired her to believe that one day she, too, could represent Canada in that same sport. Little did she imagine that in pursuing her speed skating dream, she would first compete in two Summer Olympic Games, in the sport of cycling.
With over one hundred victories under her belt, including two bronze medals in the 1996 Olympic Summer Games, medals in both the Pan American and Commonwealth Games, plus numerous World Cycling and National Championship titles, Clara had established herself as one of the best cyclists in the world. It was now time to refocus and pursue her Speed Skating dream.
The 2000/01 season on ice was full of unprecedented achievements: Clara earned a spot on the National Team after only seven weeks of specific training, and then shocked the sporting world during the 2002 Olympic Games when, only sixteen months after competing in her second Summer Olympics as a cyclist, she won a bronze medal in the grueling 5000m speed skating event. This, along with her two medals from the 1996 Summer Olympics in cycling, made Clara the only Canadian and fourth ever athlete in history to win medals in both Winter and Summer Games.
Clara became one of the top long-distance skaters in the world leading into the Winter Olympic Games in Torino, Italy in 2006. With World Cup victories, a World Championships title and a World Record in the epic 10,000m event, Clara was a definite favorite for the 5000m race. She did not disappoint, winning gold after taking the lead with only 200m to go. Along with her silver medal in the Team Pursuit in those same Games, Clara became the only athlete in history to win multiple medals in Winter and Summer Olympics.
Most recently, Clara was named flag-bearer for the 2010 Canadian Olympic Team and proudly led the Canadian athletes into BC Place to kick off her first home Games' and last Olympic Games as a competitor. Clara went on to show, one last time, that she is one of the best athletes when it comes to performing under pressure. At the age of 37, Clara thrilled the home crowd of 7000+ at the Richmond Olympic Oval to a bronze medal in her favorite and most grueling distance, the 5000m. This sixth Olympic medal allowed Clara to become, along with Cindy Klassen, Canada's most decorated Olympian of all times.
Clara has been a long time supporter of, Right to Play, and has made numerous personal donations of up to $10,000 to the humanitarian organization. Clara also made a donation to the local Vancouver charity, Take a Hike with her $10,000 bronze medal bonus from the games in Torino.
Clara is an Officer of the Order of Canada, a member of the Order of Manitoba, has received an Honorary Doctorate of Law from the University of Manitoba, received The International Olympic Committee's Sport and Community' award and is a two-time recipient of the Spirit of Sport' award from the Canadian Sports Awards
Hughes was born in Winnipeg, and is a graduate of Elmwood High School. She started with speed skating, but in 1990 she moved to competitive cycling, competing in track cycling and road cycling.