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by Haley from Climax, Canada

Clara after winning olympic medal (www.google.com/images/clara-hughes.html ())

Clara Hughes is a Canadian cyclist and speed skater. She is my hero not only because of her outstanding sporting achievements but because of the story about her battle with Depression. Throughout her life, Clara has won an amazing SIX olympic medals both at the summer and winter olympics; two medals in the 1996 summer olympics and four medals over the course of three winter olympics. It doesn't stop there however, she has also been named Female Athlete of the Year in 2004, she has been included in the list of The Most Influential Women in 2006, and in 2010 it had been announced she would receive a star on the Canadian Walk of Fame.  All this was followed by being inducted into Canada's Sports Hall of Fame. She has received numerous other awards and accolades.However, what many didn't know about Clara is, after the 1996 Olympic wins, she started to battle Depression. For two years she felt hopeless, worthless, and empty. Amazingly, she was able to overcome her mental illness and give back through campaigns such as Bell Canada's: Let's Talk. This makes her my hero in more ways than one.

Clara Hughes (www.google.com/images/clara-hughes.html)
Born on September 27, 1972, Hughes grew up in a dysfunctional family. It wasn't long after her parent's divorce that Clara became involved with the 'wrong crowd' in high school. She admitted to CBC that as a teen she smoked cigarettes. It is also known that she even experimented with drugs, alcohol, and often skipped school and ran away from home. In 1988 when Clara was channel surfing her mother's TV she came across a broadcast of Gaetan Boucher at the Calgary Winter Olympics (a speed skater). Fascinated by Boucher, Hughes felt inspired to become a speed skater. After admitting to her mother that she wanted to become a speed skater, her mother picked up the phone and contacted Winnipeg Speed Skating Club to register Clara for a spring training camp. After changing her life completely - from smoking a pack of cigarettes a day and failing classes, Clara became healthy, fit, and a consistent straight A student. Not a lot of people can drive themselves to be better - to change for the better so quickly; it's essentially what I admire most about Clara Hughes.

Hughes Cycling (www.google.com/images/clara-hughes.html ())

Not only was Clara a successful speed skater, she is also an outstanding cyclist (she originally got involved with serious cycling at the age of 17). However she would eventually return back to speed skating at then age of 28. Once again, she alternated back to cycling after her success in speed skating; retiring the sport [speed skating] in 2010 after the Vancouver Winter Olympics. In total, Clara has not only won just one Olympic medal but several. Two Bronze medals were her first achievement at Olympic level at the 1996 Summer Olympics in the sport of cycling. As for speed skating, Clara possesses four Olympic medals; one gold, one silver, and two bronze medals. Clara is the first and only Canadian to have won medals in both Summer and Winter Olympics! Her willpower and drive to train harder, push faster, and be better is definitely an outstanding trait and unique talent that Clara possess. She is easily a role model for anyone who has a passion for sports. 

Clara speaking out about Depression (www.google.com/images/clara-hughes.html ())

When Clara first felt symptoms of Depression, she excused it as post-Olympic letdown. She had just finished her first ever Olympics in 1996, bringing back to Canada two lovely bronze medals. Even though her country was proud of her accomplishments at the Summer Olympics, Clara did not feel the same. She believed that because she wasn't the best, she was worthless. She started training obsessively - more than 23,000 km/year on her bike (that's an average of 63 km a day). Clara isolated herself from the outside world, overslept, and felt waves of exhaustion. Clara admitted she would cry every single day and felt like she was spiraling deeper and deeper into a darkness and that she felt extremely alone. Not only was her career derailing, but also her life. It was only during a regular physical examination done by her training staff, Hughes broke down crying when the doctor asked her how things were going. After receiving help from her coaches, psychologists, doctors, friends and family, Clara was able to break lose of her Depression and became healthier and more outspoken. Because of her bravery, Clara was named the Officer of Order of Canada. It is because Hughes is able to see the light and found the goals she once had lost, that I became fascinated by Clara. She has inspired me to fight back my own personal depressed phases and to get right back on track to a normal, healthier life. It's more than an amazing feeling to overcome these battles.

Clara after her Bronze medal finish (www.google.com/images/clara-hughes.html ())

Clara Hughes is my hero because she has been very successful in her athletic career. Being able to change her childhood ways into ones that made her into the successful person she is today, is enough for a person to know there is hope for everyone. Being a 6-time Olympic medalists is an outstanding accomplishment that cannot be recognized enough. Clara's willpower and strength to be a better athlete and person in general, is a special talent that not a lot of people possess. She is an amazing and outstanding leader who brings inspiration to people like me, who often forget that there is still hope left as long as you fight for it. Having donated $10,000 after winning her gold medal in 2006 to Right to Play, says a lot about how much heart Clara has for youth who may not have the opportunity to become athletes (just like her, in her youth). She has brought opportunities for many people, young and old, in campaigns such as this and Bell Canada's: Let's Talk. Because of her success in sports and her humanitarian efforts, Clara Hughes will always be my Leader, my Hope, and my Hero.

Written by Haley from Climax, Canada
Last changed on: 2/11/2013 4:04:25 PM

Wikipedia. "Clara Hughes." [Online] Available http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clara_Hughes.

Wyld, Adrian. "Homes to Heal." [Online] Available http://www.homestoheal.com/personal-stories/clara-hughes/clara-hughes-talks-about-her-battle-with-de.

Johnson, Andy. "Landsberg, Hughes say toughest adversary is depression." [Online] Available http://www.ctv.ca/CTVNews/Health/20120207/clara-hughes-michael-landsberg-discuss-depression-120208/.

SR Olympic Sports. "Clara Hughes biography." [Online] Available http://www.sports-reference.com/olympics/athletes/hu/clara-hughes-1.html.

Bureau, National Speakers. "Clara Hughes." [Online] Available http://nsb.com/speakers/view/clara-hughes.

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