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Clara Hughes' passion for the fast ice

Speedskating has come a long way since its roots over 1,000 years ago in Scandinavia and the Netherlands, when people laced animal bones to their footwear and glided across frozen waterways. Long metal blades, indoor frozen ovals, and very fast gliders have transformed the sport. Few Canadians have become legends of speedskating but among them are ferocious competitors named Boucher, Le May Doan, Klassen and Hughes.

Clara Hughes gave up her world-class cycling status "only to start again as a nobody in skating", according to CBC-TV reporter Ben Chin in this 2002 report. The Olympic bronze medal winner is heading into uncharted territory, as few athletes have succeeded in both summer and winter Olympic sports. But Hughes is already very good: she's recorded the world's fourth fastest speedskating time in the 5,000-metre event. Plus she has a rare passion for the sport, exemplified in her training and even in her art. In an excerpt from a 1996 interview, Hughes shows off a painting -- a hunched-over speedskater -- that hints at her future aspiration. "I truly believe [speedskating] is my passion in sport, even more than cycling," she says.
• Clara Hughes was born Sept. 27, 1972 in Winnipeg. She and her husband Peter Guzman live in Glen Sutton, Que.

• Hughes is driven to complete the perfect race. In 2009 she told the Canadian Press: "I look at every race I've done and I've won the Olympics but I've never felt like I've perfected a performance. That's what I work for, just to be better than I ever have been."

• As noted on her website, Hughes is the only athlete in history to win multiple medals at both the Summer and Winter Games. Hughes participated in her first Olympics as a cyclist at the 1996 Atlanta Games. She won two bronze medals in the road race and in the time trial. At the 2000 Sydney Games, she was sixth in the time trial.

• As seen in this report, Hughes's first passion was speedskating and she won local races as a teenager. She resumed training in the sport in 2000 and earned a bronze medal in the 5,000-metre event at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games. At the 2006 Torino Games, she was on the Canadian squad that won silver in the team pursuit. She also skated to a memorable gold medal in the 5,000-metre event. After crossing the finish line, she dropped to the ice momentarily out of exhaustion before rising and celebrating with her Canadian teammates.

• Hughes is just the second woman and fourth athlete overall to earn medals at both the Winter and Summer Games. The other woman is Christa Luding-Rothenburger of East Germany. She won gold in speedskating in 1984 and 1988, silver in speedskating in 1988 and bronze in speedskating in 1992. Ludin-Rothenbruger also earned a silver medal in cycling in 1988.

• Hughes is active with "Right to Play," an international humanitarian organization for which athletes travel to disadvantaged areas to encourage the development of sport among youths. She donated $10,000 of he own money to Right to Play after winning her gold medal at Torino.

• On her website, Hughes says that she loves coffee and handmade jewelry.

• Hughes is the National spokesperson for the Bell Canada "Let's Talk" mental health initiative, which promotes breaking down the stigma of mental health and depression issues.

Medium: Television
Program: Sunday Report
Broadcast Date: Jan. 13, 2002
Guests: Peter Guzman, Clara Hughes, Maureen Hughes
Host: Alison Smith
Reporter: Ben Chin
Duration: 4:32

Last updated: March 17, 2014

Page consulted on March 17, 2014

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