After retiring from speedskating, Clara Hughes decided to remain a high-level athlete to race the time trial at the London 2012 Olympic Games. Earlier today, the Canadian rider gave it all she had to finish 5th, clocking a time of 38 minutes and 28 seconds on the 29-km course.
USA’s Kristin Armstrong was the fastest with a time of 37 minutes and 34 seconds and successfully defend her Olympic title won at the 2008 Beijing games.
“That’s what I was worth. I have no excuses and that’s the best I had in the legs, in my heart and in my head.” a serene Hughes told sportcom.ca after the race. “Yes I am disappointed because I had high personal expectations. I gave it all and it wasn’t enough but in the end, there were some better than me. That is all.”
The six-time Olympic medalist, two bronze in the Summer Olympics in 1996 and four medals over the course of three Winter Olympics, said that she was technically perfect on the TT course both in the turns and with her pedalstroke.
“I was feeling good… in the sense where it is infernal and that it is a time trial of 38 minutes of pain. I suffered, a sign that it was a good race.”
The huge crowd cheered loudly the riders throughout the course that started and ended at Hampton Court Palace in London.. “That’s what I will remember the most. It reminded me of the Vancouver Olympic Games. I am grateful to have been able to participate in the Games one more time. I was good enough to represent Canada but unfortunately not good enough to be on the podium. On the other hand, I am very proud of all I was able to accomplish.”
What’s next for Hughes who turn 40 in September?
“I will enjoy my day and tonight I’ll have a beer with my husband.” she laughed.
Hughes is not done with racing this season. She wants to represent Canada at the World Championships held in Limburg,the Netherlands this fall. She also hasn’t completely closed the door to another season.
“I’ve never failed after giving it everything that I had. That’s my biggest satisfaction (of my career). I really hope people will remember me for what I did and the was I did it. I’m thinking especially of all the girls that can be inspired whatever their age.”
Hughes is an Officer of the Order of Canada, a member of the Order of Manitoba, received The International Olympic Committee’s ‘Sport and Community’ award, is a two-time recipient of the ‘Spirit of Sport’ award from the Canadian Sports Awards and was inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 2010. One of the charities she is involved with is Right to Play, an athlete-driven international humanitarian organization that uses sport to encourage the development of youth in disadvantaged areas. Hughes donated the $10,000 bonus from her gold medal in 2006 to the charity.
In 2012, Hughes shared with the world her battles with depression and got involved with Bell Let’s Talk campaign to combat the stigma of mental illness.
At her sixth and final Olympic Games, Hughes feels that she has found the Olympic spirit with the new generation of athletes. “It’s beautiful. Sport can change lives and transcend people. It saved mine.”
The other Canadian in the race, Denise Ramsden finished 19th with a time of 41 minutes and 44 seconds.