Everything I did in sport
has just, like, I mean, it’s dictated
the rest of my life. (LEGENDS LIVE ON
CLARA HUGHES) I’m not a person that attaches
memories to things. Like, my Olympic experiences,
many of them ended with medals. Those medals don’t define
what the experience was. Growing up
I got into a lot of trouble. Let’s just say
I was an Olympic delinquent. I grew up in a family
environment that was really difficult. My dad struggled much of
his life with alcoholism, my parents split up
when I was nine years old and my sister and I
both basically hit the streets. We both had a lot of issues,
drugs and alcohol. That started
when I was 12 years old and by the time I was 16 I wasn’t going to school
any more. I was drinking a lot,
binge drinking, passing out and, you know,
under street posts. Just wanted to self-destruct. And what happened,
that afternoon in 1988, is I was flipping
through the channels, completely bored out of
my skull, had a pack of smokes
in my pocket and what I came upon that
afternoon from Calgary was the Winter Olympics. (OLYMPIC WINTER GAMES
CALGARY 1988) Gaetan Boucher, skating
his last race for Canada, was the defending
Olympic champion. And when I watched Gaetan
go off on world record pace and blew up so spectacularly with three quarters of a lap
to go, that he had to hold his legs, and then he was
trying to finish and his coach
was yelling at him and when he crossed the line
in ninth place he was just shaking his head
like he failed. Seeing somebody hurt themselves
so much for something, it was the first time I
connected to something positive and that afternoon
my life changed. I didn’t know how
or why or when or where but I knew I was going to
go to the Olympics. When I started speed skating
as a 16-year-old, about a year and a half in I was recruited by
a cycling coach. I enjoyed it
and I just kept going and it turned out really well. I was really strong,
really fast, really good and I won $700
in my first bike race. (OLYMPIC GAMES ATLANTA 1996) I ended up doing my first
Olympics as a road cyclist. After winning
two bronze medals, that experience
dictated my life. I ended up getting an eating
disorder in the sport, I struggled with anorexia, because I was in a sport
that told me I was too big. I thought if I won something
it would make it all worth it. I thought if I won something I wouldn’t feel
the worthlessness and the hopelessness
and the helplessness, and when I won medals,
my world came crashing down. Within months, I was in a state
of major depression. I went from being the fittest
and strongest I’d ever been… ..to not being able to do
anything other than eat, sleep and cry. She’s probably
the most dedicated, hardworking individual I ever met in my entire life. By kind of breaking
down all barriers from what she has been through
as a person, to what she became as
an athlete. So as these young kids
come onto the stage, could we give them a good ol’
Aussie g’day and welcome? I got the whooping cough about
seven weeks before the games and was coughing and choking
and not able to train. Eight days before the road race I woke up to the news
that one of my team-mates had died in a crash and I remember
going to the washroom and looking at myself
in the mirror and saying,
“Who do you think you are? “What are you here for? “And if you can’t do it
for yourself, “you will do it for Nicole.” And I finished
in second-last place. Four days later,
I did the time trial and I finished in sixth place, 23 seconds out of
the bronze medal. Those races to this day
are probably the two I’m most proud of because it taught me
it’s not about medals, it is about excellence and this beautiful thing
called trying. That’s what brought me back
to speed skating. I went back to speed skating
at 27 years old. That’s not even possible. I don’t think
I’ve ever seen this in the history of
speed skating, somebody who has
not grown up with skates, who doesn’t understand
how to skate and learning from
you’re a little child. Her determination,
her passion for the sport, her love to glide on the ice, made her the best in the world
in this sport. In seven weeks
I made the national team, in three months I was top 10
in the world at the World Championships and 17 months later I won my
first Olympic medal on the ice. Torino 2006 is the only time
I won the Olympics. (OLYMPIC WINTER GAMES
TORINO 2006) I was against the three-time
defending Olympic champion Claudia Pechstein of Germany, and I remember
looking at Claudia and thinking, she thinks
she’s going to win again. Something special
is going to happen tonight. And when we started
I remember I was behind Claudia and as the race went on
I was starting to catch her and then as we got into
two laps to go, all of a sudden we were even. I hurt so much but in that
moment I got lower and longer and stronger
and I attacked that race as if I was fighting for
my life. And I remember
almost crying from the pain and then getting to the final
stretch and throwing my blade and then looking up at the time and seeing 6 minutes 59 seconds
and change and thinking, my team-mates
skated seven minutes, I just won the Olympics. In Vancouver,
my last winter Olympiad, I was the flag bearer
for Canada. (OLYMPIC WINTER GAMES
VANCOUVER 2010) My 3,000 metres finishing in
fifth place, and the 5,000 not winning again but finishing third,
but skating better than I ever had in my life and when I crossed the line I remember thinking,
“This is it, I’m done.” (OLYMPIC GAMES LONDON 2012) I wanted to go back
and I wanted to do it the way I’d learned
in speed skating. To do it in a way that was
positive, was supportive… ..where I was good to myself and the voices in my head were not ones that were
tearing me apart, but ones that were supportive
and encouraging. I finished in fifth place
and when I crossed the line, all I thought was, “I’m done.” And it was closure. Clara is a real inspiration in the sense that she recognises her opportunity
to give back, that these Olympic medals are,
you know, a few inches thick when you stack them
on top of each other but when you stand on top of
those medals as a podium for change
your voice gets heard. Former Olympic speed skater
and cyclist Clara Hughes trained for this day
in some weather that was pretty darn cold. (CLARA’S BIG RIDE) We rode 11,100km,
it was a massive initiative, and did over 200 community
events, 110 community visits. For her to take up
the challenge of cycling around the country is unbelievable, frankly, and I was there the day
she left from Toronto in the driving snow. She was, and as she always is
in that moment, unrelenting and committed
to seeing it through and that’s exactly
what she did. The ride wasn’t about
raising money. It was really about raising
awareness, and any funds raised stayed in the communities
for mental health initiatives and it’s something that, you
know, I’m still tired from, I still can’t believe
we pulled it off. The first time I spoke about
depression was in 2011 and I’m going to say it was the most important thing I did
in my life. Every single day of my life,
wherever I am in the world, a Canadian will come up to me
and say, “Thank you, “thank you for what you’ve done
for mental health.” It is no longer about skating
or cycling or medals or this or that or that race
or that performance, it is about, “You let me know
I’m not alone,” and I always say thank you
to anybody who talks to me because they’re doing the same
for me. It’s like where I come from I should never have gone on
to do what I did but if I can do it,
so can anyone. I was a kid that was
transformed because of sport and it fundamentally shifted
the direction of my life. It’s given me a life and it’s
something I’ll never forget and that’s why I give back. You can’t take that incredible
gift and keep it for yourself, you have to give it to others. (LEGENDS LIVE ON)

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Dennis Veasley

24 thoughts on “Clara Hughes – The “Olympic Delinquent” Who Won Six Medals | Legends Live On”

  1. Excellent. One of the most inspirational things I've seen. She's learned such wise attitudes. That quote at 4min 18 to 4min 24- "excellence and a beautiful thing called trying."

  2. Her personality exudes such positivity and hope! Clara you're an inspiration to me. I hope to meet you someday and thank you for the difference that you made in my life. God bless you.

  3. can you imagine getting to the national team and your team mates being like
    'how long have you been skating?'
    'only seven weeks'

    they would be so mad

  4. I love this story because she didnt just go directly from the womb to skating or biking she started later and it really gives me the confidence that its not too late to start.

  5. Such an inspirational example of winning in sports and in life. Honesty is always a victory: "It's not about medals, it's about excellence!" Absolute awesomeness!!!!

  6. good to be humble but it's also good to show how proud you are of your effort and that you do deserve success when you try your best!

  7. It made me tear up (in a positive way), that even though she has won multiple olympic medals, for her, her most important accomplishment isn't that, but being an advocate for mental health.

  8. I am glad I have read Clara Hughes book called "open heart open mind". Definitely a must read for anyone

  9. No entiendo, no fue muy famosa a la hora de ganar oro en comparacion de otrxs, es raro que la hayan elegido siendo que no fue muy destacada, solo fue popular

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