Clara Hughes, O.C., O.M., M.S.C., OLY
Clara Hughes, a dual-season Olympian, is the only athlete in history to win multiple medals at both the summer and winter Olympic Games. Her six career medals tie her as Canada’s most decorated Olympian.
Hughes started speed skating at the age of 16, and then took up the sport of cycling at the age of 17. She would eventually return to the ice at the age of 28, after achieving success in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. With her experience and endurance from cycling, Hughes went on to a successful winter Olympic career, earning medals in speed skating.. She then returned to cycling, at the age of 38, and her last race at the 2012 London Olympics.
She is the Founding Spokesperson for the Bell ‘Let’s Talk Mental Health’ initiative, including Bell ‘Let’s Talk Day’. Hughes uses her past struggles with depression to relate to others and to help combat issues including the stigma involved with mental health issues. “Hughes battled deep depression, which threatened to derail her life, after winning two bronze medals in cycling at the 1996 Olympics.” In 2014, she completed ‘Clara’s Big Ride’, a cross Canada bike tour covering 11,100 kilometres in 110 days, hosting 235 events and over 75 school visits in order to raise awareness about mental health. In 2015, a CTV-produced documentary Clara’s Big Ride premiered on the fifth annual Bell Let’s Talk Day, showcasing the ride. Her memoir, “Open Heart, Open Mind”, was published in 2015.
Clara Hughes was made an Officer of the Order of Canada (2007) and a Member of the Order of Manitoba (2006). She also holds honourary doctorates from several Canadian universities and was given a star on Canada’s Walk of Fame. In 2006 the IOC awarded her the “Sport and Community” award for her commitment to promoting the values of sport and play around the world. She was inducted to Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 2010.
On January 16, 2012, The Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport and Physical Activity (CAAWS) announced Hughes as one of twenty women selected to the Most Influential Women in Sport and Physical Activity list (MIW) for 2011. The objective of the list is to focus on women who are leaders and role models making a difference on the Canadian or international scene. The women on the MIW are influential women who contributed in a significant way to sport and physical activity in the year 2011.
On April 27, 2013, the steep hill on Sydenham Road in Dundas, Ontario on which she trained for seven years was officially renamed ‘Clara’s Climb’. There is a plaque there in her honour describing her training and accomplishments.
In 2014, Hughes received the Loyola Medal from Concordia University.
On June 30, 2014, Hughes was honoured with the Meritorious Service Cross (Civil Division).
On January 29, 2015, the official opening ceremony was held for a school named after Hughes. Open since September 2014, the Clara Hughes Public School is located in Oshawa, Ontario. At the ceremony, Hughes said, “It is without exception the greatest honour that I have in my life, to have my name here.”
Hughes, an avid long-distance hiker, has walked over 20,000 kilometres on trails in North America. She’s hiked the ’triple crown’ of long distance hiking, competing the Pacific Crest, Continental Divide and Appalachian Trails in their entirety.