Clara Hughes may have skated her last competitive race, but that doesn’t mean she’s done with the Olympics.
One of Canada’s most decorated Olympians is planning a comeback in cycling, with an eye on the 2012 Summer Games in London.
It’s not that much of a stretch for the 38-year-old, as she won her first two Olympic medals in cycling at the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta.
Since then she’s become the first person in the world to win multiple medals in both the Summer and Winter Games, and is tied with speed skater Cindy Klassen for the most career Olympic medals by a Canadian, with six.
But Hughes has always said it’s not about the medals. It’s about the perfect race.
Last February, in Vancouver, she skated what she called the perfect 5,000 metres, winning the bronze medal in front of a screaming home crowd.
Now, she wants to use her experience to duplicate that feeling on two wheels.
“I knew that was it, that I would never skate another stride in competition,” Hughes told the Toronto Star. “And I dream of having that race on the bike, when I roll across the line and I look at the clock... and I think, ‘That’s it. That was it. I’m done.’ ”
Hughes made the decision after working out with members of the national team this summer.
The move will come as a surprise to those who listened to her going into the Vancouver Games, which were to be her swan song.
“My last race in the 5,000 metres will be my last as a competitive athlete,” Hughes said then.
“What better way to end an athletic career than on home soil in an Olympics?”
Her goal now is to compete in cycling’s time trial and the team pursuit, a new event, in London.
She’ll first have to earn a spot on the national team, allowing her to compete in international events like the 2011 Pan American Games and world championships.
Hughes says she’s a different athlete than the one who competed in cycling at the ’96 and 2000 Summer Games.
“I am nowhere near my limit,” Hughes told the Star. “I just want to see if there are such things as limits. I want to go and find out.”
Six and counting
Clara Hughes’ Olympic medals
— 2010 Winter Games, Vancouver — Bronze, 5,000m, speedskating
— 2006 Winter Games, Turin — Gold, 5,000m, speedskating; Silver, team pursuit, speedskating
— 2002 Winter Games, Salt Lake City — Bronze, 5,000m, speedskating
— 1996 Summer Games, Atlanta — Bronze, road race, cycling; Bronze, time trial, cycling