The many layers of Clara Hughes: Olympian, humanitarian, nature-lover... I watched the parade of Canadian Olympians during the Opening Ceremony the other night, mentally ticking off which ones I've seen in previous such Olympic moments. I get all warm and fuzzy when I see familiar faces – Simon Whitfield, Chef de Commission Mark Tewksbury, Adam van Koeverden, among others. Another familiar face you'll be seeing during the Games is six-time (yes, 6!) Olympic medalist Clara Hughes, who's no stranger to Canadian Living. She's graced our print pages and web site numerous times. And on each occasion that we delve her into world I discover yet another dimension to Clara's personal and professional life and I'm newly-impressed and inspired. [caption id="attachment_12210" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Six-time Olympic medalist Clara Hughes. Another challenge. Another cause. (Photo: P&G)"] [/caption]
•••10 reasons you'll be inspired by Olympian Clara Hughes: 1. Clara is the only athlete (ever) to win multiple medals in both Summer and Winter Olympic Games. When she's not cycling, she's speed-skating. 2. After her win at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia, Clara donated her $10,000 medal bonus to a Vancouver-based program called Take a Hike, which introduces youth at risk to outdoor adventure. 3. In addition to her star on Canada's Walk of Fame, Clara's honours include: Officer of the Order of Canada, Member of the Order of Manitoba, the International Olympic Committee’s prestigious ‘Sport and the Community’ award, and a shelf full of honorary doctorates from universities across Canada. 4. Clara was given (earned!) the honour the flag-bearer for Team Canada at the Vancouver Winter Games in 2010. (And, personally, I simply assumed it would be her last Olympics. Surprised again!) 5. Philosophy: "...knowledge becomes wisdom when it is shared with others." Leading by example: "...remain open to learning, open to growing, and most importantly, open to being inspired..." 6. Listening to her heart: I was stopped in my tracks when reading how Clara replied in a recent interview to a UK journalist when asked about the wrap of her cycling and skating career:
“I know that you just know (when it’s over), because I knew when I skated across the line in Vancouver after my 5,000 metres that I would never race again. I knew it in my heart, and I knew it inside of me, and I think it’ll be the same on the bike at the Olympics. There really are so many things that I have the opportunity to do that have deep meaning in my life, that I’ve put on hold to continue to be an athlete. There’s no sacrifice involved, there’s no compromise really involved, because I’m doing what I love.7. Open about depression: Dispelling myths about depression is an endless challenge. It's so often avoided, and when the subject of depression does enter the public forum it's often draped in high drama. Clara had the courage to take a different approach. She went public with her own battles with depression in a very matter-of-fact style, detailing the dark moments that assailed her in a very realistic manner, and in doing so inspired legions of everyday Canadians, especially young, strong women like herself who perhaps aren't always 'allowed' to talk about such emotions. Good on her. 8. Her "Hello and Goodbye" blog post. Read Clara's June 12 blog entry. Forget all those self-help books about living-in-the-moment. I think Clara's got it down just right. 9. Clara and her sponsor - the perfect match: I couldn't help but think how fitting it is that Clara is the spokesperson for P&G's "Secret" brand. As one of the P&G Thank You Mom athletes, the official message reads, "...Secret has been providing women the protection they need to take on life fearlessly — to live arms up. Today, we continue in our push to help women live fearlessly through innovation and inspiration." That's Clara. 10. Play, just play: Clara is a strong believer in the role of play and sport in a child's development. She's long been a spokesperson -- and driver -- for Right To Play, an organization that promotes that very cause. Which Olympian is inspiring you?