Clara Hughes admits she has always gone by her gut when it comes to decisions in her athletic career. Now, she's thinking with her heart and mind.
At 38, the Olympic speedskating and cycling medallist is making a push to represent Canada at the 2012 London Summer Games, even though she declared her bronze-medal finish in the 5,000 metres on the ice at the Vancouver Olympics in February would be her last competitive strides.
"I'm not finished yet," she told the Toronto Star in an exclusive interview. "I've watched the best athletes go at it and I feel like I can be in there."
Tied with fellow speedskater Cindy Klassen for the Canadian record in Olympic medals with six, Hughes said her latest pursuit isn't about personal glory, but the realization she hasn't emptied the tank, that there's more to offer.
"I am nowhere near my limit," said the Winnipeg native, now living Glen Sutton, Que. "I just want to see if there are such things as limits. I want to go and find out."
Hughes, who has worked as a colour commentator for CBC Sports, has lined up two unnamed Canadian businessmen and sponsor Cold-FX to see her through this latest challenge from a financial standpoint.
She has also hired a new coach, Chris Rozdilsky of the PowerWatts Premier Studio in Montreal, who shares the same passion and motivation for sport and attention to detail as Hughes.
Focus on team pursuit
A new Olympic event, the women's team pursuit, is Hughes's focus, along with the road cycling time trials.
Double world cycling champion Tara Whitten attempted to recruit Hughes for the team pursuit back in January, but Hughes put off further talks until they reunited for training sessions in the summer.
"It definitely reinforced the idea I wanted to do this," she told the Star, noting London 2012 isn't a comeback but "continuing the path I've been on."
Over-40 women athletes have travelled a similar road. American swimmer Dara Torres, 41, and road cyclist Jeannie Longo, 51, posted top-five finishes at the Beijing Olympics and world road cycling championships.
Hughes is one of only four athletes in the world who have won medals at both the Summer and Winter Games. She reached the podium five times in three Olympics — and that includes a speedskating gold at the 2006 Turin Games.
She competed as a cyclist in Atlanta 1996 and Sydney 2000. Then, as a speedskater, she raced in Salt Lake City 2002 and Turin 2006.
Away from the field of play, Hughes — who carried the Canadian flag into the opening ceremonies at BC Place Stadium in Vancouver — is an activist for Right to Play, which helps underprivileged children around the world play sports.
She's also an Officer of the Order of Canada and a member of the Order of Manitoba, and has received an honorary doctorate of law from the University of Manitoba.