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May 6/03 1:53 am - Interview with Clara Hughes


Posted by Editoress on 05/6/03
 

Interview with Clara Hughes

Clara Hughes has one of the most celebrated Canadian careers in sport. She is the only Canadian (and only the sixth person ever) to have won medals in both the Summer and Winter Olympics. Clara went from winning gold and bronze medals in Manchester at the Commonwealth Games last summer, to medalling at the Speedskating World Championships earlier this year. We had the chance to talk with her after she got back from the Worlds, just before she and her husband Peter headed to California and Baja, Mexico for a cycling holiday.

CC - You've gone from speedskating (as a junior), to cycling, and back to speedskating. Why back to cycling again?

CH - I just missed riding my bike so much! My plan all along has been to compete until 2006. 2004 in Athens for cycling and 2006 in Italy for speedskating. It is too much in an Olympic year to do two sports, so I am totally focused on cycling now (that the speedskating worlds are over).

CC - What is your program leading up to Athens?

CH - My focus is on the timed events - the time trial on the road and the pursuit on the track. The big, big goal is the Olympics, everything is preparation for that, but this year the major objectives are the Pan Ams and Hamilton (Road Worlds).

CC - So you are planning on racing at Hamilton? Just the time trial, or the road race as well?

CH - It is definitely a goal of mine to go to Hamilton. I know the course like the back of my hand, and how often do you get to race somewhere that you consider home? (Hughes lived in Hamilton for 6 years). My focus is the time trial, but I hope the team can come together and then I will do the road as well. There have been problems in the past, so if it happens again I won't do the road. A lot depends on the politics.

CC - You are starting your season with a bike tour! What about that, and when will we see you racing?

CH - The bike tour is my major base period. Eric van den Eynde, my coach, and I figured that last year's tour to Inuvik (after the Commonwealth Games) was great - it was strength training and a break from the stress of training, the structure and the pressure. We will stop in California to visit some friends for a week, and then go down to Baja for about 3 weeks.

My first race will be the Le Tour de Grand Montréal after the World Cup (June 2-5). I won't be doing the World Cup; that course is too hilly for me. After that I will go to T-town (Trexlertown velodrome) for the Nicole's Foundation race. (Note: Nicole's Foundation is named after Clara's friend and team mate Nicole Reinhart . Visit her website at www.nicolesbench.com for more information.) I'll being doing mostly preparation for the national championships after that.

CC - Prior to the Commonwealth Games, it appeared that you had shifted your emphasis to track. But then, you rode incredibly well on the road and you are talking now about doing more road.

CH - To be honest, I had one of the best time trials of my life in Manchester. I realized that I had a lot more left than I thought for this (time trialling). I'm looking at three events now - the Time Trial, the Pursuit and Points Race. I have so much experience in timed events - 13 years in cycling and speedskating - and I feel that I am still approaching my peak; just starting to come into my best years. It was great to see Sarah Ulmer (Commonwealth Games Pursuit gold medalist) go so fast, but I know that I have the ability to go that fast, and faster.

CC - You've gone back to school again, studying art. Where do you think it will lead you?

CH - I have a bursary from the Quebec Foundation for Athletic Excellence, which includes going back to school. They match up athletes with companies and individuals - I have incredible support from Bombardier and an individual. It is great being back in a learning environment. I want to work on my writing skills because Peter and I want to work on travel books; there seems to be a lot of interest in the extended types of tours we do.

I'm slowly putting things together. I have a strong sense that I want to work with kids in the future. The things I've learned in sports and art can help kids feel positive about themselves, I feel, especially in the North and the inner cities where they don't get much exposure to these types of dreams.

CC - What about a team for this year?

CH - It is the same as last year: Trek-VW in Montreal. Last year I raced mainly with the men; it was great training and no pressure - I could stay at home and train. Cycling became fun again. I had a chance to race with the number one women's team (Saturn), and it was amazing, but that isn't where I need to be right now.

I will race a lot for the provincial team as well. That was a lot of fun and refreshing. With Annie Gariepy as the manager, we were able to work with the younger riders and shared what we had learned.

I'm exactly where I need and want to be.

 


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