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Clara Hughes: People’s Stories Fuelled Me As I Cycled Across Canada

Clara Hughes: People’s Stories Fuelled Me As I Cycled Across Canada

“Being a champion is not just about winning,” says six-time Olympic medalist Clara Hughes. Believing that actions off the track define us as much as those on it, Hughes inspires people toward success in all areas of their lives. Her candid, personal talks range from how she believes sports can change lives to her struggle with depression—fully embodying the idea that each of us can overcome challenges to become the champions we’re meant to be. Yesterday, an emotional Clara  thanked Canadians nine times during her empowered speech, after completing a 110-day bike ride across the country for mental health awareness:

The six-time Olympian biked her way onto the stage on Parliament Hill after being introduced by Gov. Gen. David Johnston. She was greeted with roaring applause for her perseverance in completing the roughly 12,000-kilometre journey.

“It is a thrill and it is a relief because this is an enormous country when you pedal it by bicycle,” Hughes said. She added that many of the one in five Canadians who are affected by mental illness struggle in silence.

“We have seen them, we have heard them, we have given them the stage and the platform to share, and that has been the fuel that has inspired and ignited every single kilometre of the way,” she said.

Hughes said the trip was “the ride of a lifetime” and has allowed her to connect with others through their struggle and not just their joy.

She said representing Canada and wearing the maple leaf on your back “is the fuel that allows you to move mountains” and challenged Canadians to find the compassion and understanding to help those with mental illness.

“We are not done, we have so far to go, but the dream of a stigma-free Canada, when it comes to mental illness and people struggling, is alive and it’s achievable, we can do it together,” she said.

Ottawa Citizen/July, 2014