Olympic RelayOlympic Relay: Clara Hughes, Cycling

Posted: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 | 01:24 PM

Categories: Olympic Relay, Olympics2012

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Canadian athletes are a fascinating breed of focused men and women who know what they want to achieve. We see them as they compete, and then they disappear from our view.

Here's a place where you have a chance to meet them in a way that illustrates their personalities. Their likes, their dislikes and what makes them tick. We call this the Olympic Relay and here's how it works.

A few months ago we had the idea of sending five questions to a selected group of Olympic athletes. We started with Olympic kayaker and medal hopeful Adam van Koeverden and asked for his feedback. He responded by saying it's a good idea, but it could be better? He suggested that we get athletes to ask questions of other athletes. Something like chain mail. And that is what we have tried to do.

For the past few months they have been asking questions of some of their fellow athletes who have generously taken the time to respond. Click on the images above and you'll discover the questions, and the answers. Enjoy!

Clara Hughes of Canada competes during the Women Elite time trial on September, 2011. (JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP/Getty Images)
Clara Hughes of Canada competes during the Women Elite time trial on September, 2011. (JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP/Getty Images)

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Clara Hughes is perhaps Canada's most well-known and admired athlete.

She has won Olympic medals in cycling and speedskating.  

Her Olympic career started in 1996 when she competed as a cyclist and won two bronze medals. She was in the 2000 Olympics as a cyclist and then said she was giving up the sport.
Clara Hughes
Hometown:  Glen Sutton, Quebec
Sport:  Cycling

Clara Hughes is perhaps Canada's most well-known and admired athlete.

She has won Olympic medals in cycling and speedskating.  

Her Olympic career started in 1996 when she competed as a cyclist and won two bronze medals. She was in the 2000 Olympics as a cyclist and then said she was giving up the sport.

That didn't mean she was done as an athlete because she took up speedskating and not only competed, but she dominated. In the 2006 Winter Olympics she won two medals, including gold. If that doesn't bring a nation's admiration, she also donated $10,000 of her own money to the organization Right to Play.

In the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver she was Canada's flag bearer and won a bronze medal.  

She's already a member of the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame. 

In 2012 she is back, competing once again as a cyclist, this time as a 39-year-old.  

We had to have Clara Hughes as a member of this Olympic Relay.  

These questions are from CBCSports.ca

Her Olympic Events:
  • Women's Individual Time Trial
  • Women's Road Race
CBCSports.ca: 
Do you prefer the Winter or Summer Olympics?

Clara: They are both so different I cannot compare. The winter is more intimate and the summer absolute chaos and enormous. I love them both and feel really lucky to be able to compare the two because of having experience in both!

CBCSports.ca: 
You are 39. What motivates you to keep pushing your body so hard?

Clara: I don't live in the past and quite simply feel fortunate to still have passion and motivation for something that has great meaning to me in my life. I love the challenges of trying to be excellent at something and sport continues to be my outlet. What I've achieved is something I can enjoy later in life. I don't factor past successes into what I am trying to do. I enjoy the situation of having to prove myself and improve myself.

CBCSports.ca: 
What is the most important lesson you learned through sport?

Clara: 
Always finish what you start. Always bring the best of you into whatever you do.  Don't focus on what you don't have, focus on the possibilities and on excellence.

CBCSports.ca: 
What was the toughest challenge you faced, and how did you overcome it? 

Clara: 
The toughest challenge would be starting speedskating again at 27-years-old.  I had only skated less than two years as a teenager and it was literally like learning a new sport. I was pretty old for this but thought why not try and do something nobody had ever done and see what was possible. Really, it was 10 years of struggling with the speedskating technique. It never came easy for me so this was a constant challenge to keep focused and push through all the days where I felt I was a pretty bad skater technically.

CBCSports.ca: 
Your cycling events can last for hours. What are you thinking about all of that time when you are training?

Clara: Keep it varied and enjoy what you are doing. I always think about being engaged in what I am doing and connected to the landscape, the movement. I do a lot of riding inside in the winter because I live and train at altitude, so I invested in buying a whole collection of Tour de France videos to watch while riding. Little things like this make the hours pass. And I make sure this training is mixed in with fun stuff like snowshoeing outside. Know when you need to ride with people as well don't try to do it all alone - it gets boring! And make sure you like the people you ride with.  

CBCSports.ca: 
Part of getting in shape also relies on eating well. What super foods help you stay energized before and after a long bike ride?  (Bonus question!)

Clara: 
I eat a really healthy diet- no processed foods- and almost always have oatmeal with yogurt, fruit, nuts in the morning for breakfast. I make steel cut oats as they are delicious and less refined than regular oats. What you put into your system is the fuel your body is run on, so think about the quality and the quantity. Also, when training, I keep my glucose levels high by constant fueling to get the most out of my workouts. I use energy drinks, gels and when training, also energy bars. Or an almond butter and honey sandwich on spelt bread.

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