Hughes tells athletes to set their own goals

Speedskater Clara Hughes has advice for athletes making their Olympic debut at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver — don’t listen to advice.

Canada’s Clara Hughes gave advice to those who will make their Olympic debut at the 2010 games.

Canada’s Clara Hughes gave advice to those who will make their Olympic debut at the 2010 games.

Speedskater Clara Hughes has advice for athletes making their Olympic debut at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver — don’t listen to advice.

“Don’t let anybody tell you what it’s going to be and how you should be,” says the four-time Olympian and multi-medallist.

Told by pundits prior to the road race at the 1996 Olympics that she was just there to gain experience for future Olympics, Hughes won the first of her two bronze medals in cycling in Atlanta.

Few athletes win Olympic medals in different sports, but shortly after switching to long-track speedskating, the Winnipeg native earned bronze in 2002. Hughes didn’t see that as a relative newcomer to the sport, she should be kept off the podium.

“Don’t let anyone else set your limits because the magic of the Olympics is it can rise you above anything you ever imagined possible,” Hughes says. “You could get the wings that the Olympics can give you on the day that it really matters.

“You might not get them back again in your life, but you know what? It could happen to you.”

The majority of the approximately 220 athletes on Canada’s Olympic team in 2010 will have competed in a previous Games. They’ll draw on that experience to navigate the pitfalls of the mammoth event.

But dozens will make their debut when the Games open Feb. 12. The entire ski cross team will be Olympic newbies because ski cross is new too.

The rookies will discover transportation, training and eating meals is more complicated and takes more time than at other international events.

The handful of media they see at World Cups will swell to the thousands in Vancouver and Whistler. Many will be on national television for the first time in their lives.

Hockey player Hayley Wickenheiser will participate in her fifth Games in Vancouver and says it’s easy in your first one to think you must do something extraordinary.

“A lot of athletes go to the Games and think they have to raise the bar,” she explains. “If you’re prepared and done all you can do, when you go to the Games, just relax and perform the way you always have.

“That’s a really hard thing to do, but I think over the different Olympic Games, I have learned that.”

Experience in previous Games gives an athlete confidence. But every Canadian will be a novice at competing at an Olympic Games in their home country.

For that reason, biathlete Megan Imrie of Falcon Lake, Man., doesn’t feel she’s disadvantaged compared to teammates with more Olympic seasoning.

“Since this is in our backyard, I have a feeling there are going to be a few twists that not even the veterans will know about this time,” she says.

Using cross-country skier Chandra Crawford as an example, Imrie points out that lack of experience didn’t detract from her result. Crawford raced under the radar to gold in her first Olympics in 2006.

“As a rookie going into it, I’m not going to have pressure to perform to a podium level,” Imrie says.

“There’s always that chance that I could always have a fantastic day, but it’s not the same pressure that the veterans will be getting.”

Ottawa speedskater Kristina Groves, a double silver medallist in 2006, agrees experience can take you only so far and an Olympics at home adds another layer of complexity.

“The Games are in Canada and I’m in a position where people expect certain things and that’s a whole new thing that I’ve never lived through before,” Groves says. “The experience is one thing, but I’ve never lived this experience.

“There’s no way you can replicate a home Games experience.”

Some aspects of the Olympics will be the same for every athlete, whether it’s their first or fifth time. The challenge for both is to soak in the unique experience, while performing their best.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A federal strategy to preserve threatened trout could conflict with provincial coal leases in the Eastern Slopes of the Rockies. (Contributed photo by Jeff Lund).
Federal regulations could save Alberta’s bull trout by shutting down mining plans, says biologist

Ottawa’s new strategy identifies a 30-metre protected area along rivers and streams

(Contributed image)
Wolf Creek Public Schools will not participate in curriculum pilot

Central Alberta school jurisdiction joins others across Alberta

AstraZeneca vaccine is ready to be used at a homeless shelter in Romford, east London, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Frank Augstein
Most unvaccinated Canadians uncomfortable with AstraZeneca vaccine: survey

Just 41 per cent of Canadians who aren’t vaccinated, but intend to… Continue reading

Jennifer Lopez, left, and Alex Rodriguez take a selfie as they arrive at the 26th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards in January 2020. VAX Live: The Concert to Reunite the World will showcase Lopez. (Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision/AP, File)
Selena Gomez and J.Lo headline vax concert for poor nations

NEW YORK — Backed by an international concert hosted by Selena Gomez… Continue reading

A vial of the vaccine by Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a company owned by Johnson & Johnson. Federal health officials in the U.S. said early Tuesday they were urging a pause in the use of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine after reports of six serious blood clots, and officials in Washington state and around the country quickly complied. (Aristide Economopoulos/NJ Advance Media)
How J&J and AstraZeneca differ from the mRNA vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna

Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose COVID-19 vaccine has hit a stumbling block in… Continue reading

An emergency response worker carries an air monitoring device at the site of a crude oil spill at a Trans Mountain Pipeline pump station in Abbotsford, on Sunday, June 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Failed fitting caused 190,000-litre spill at Trans Mountain site in B.C.: TSB

VANCOUVER — A Transportation Safety Board report says the failure of a… Continue reading

Ottawa
Indigenous leaders, experts urge Ottawa to quickly pass UNDRIP bill before election

OTTAWA — Indigenous leaders and legal experts are pushing federal lawmakers to… Continue reading

Visitors to a roadside memorial pay their respects in Portapique, N.S., on Friday, April 24, 2020. The Canadian Red Cross confirmed today it has collected $6.2 million in donations to help the families in rural Nova Scotia affected by the mass shooting last spring that claimed 22 lives. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Red Cross collects $6.2 million for families affected by Nova Scotia mass shooting

HALIFAX — Canadians and people from around the world donated $6.2 million… Continue reading

Hindu devotees wearing face masks as a precautionary measure against the coronavirus stand in a queue to offer prayers inside a temple dedicated to goddess Kali in Jammu, India, Tuesday, April 13, 2021. New infections have surged in the past month and India has now reported over 13.6 million cases — pushing its toll past Brazil, and making it second only to the United States. In the past 24 hours, over 160,000 new infections have been detected and experts fear that the worst is yet to come. (AP Photo/Channi Anand)
Johnson & Johnson delays shot rollout in Europe

BERLIN — Johnson & Johnson says it is delaying the rollout of… Continue reading

Restaurant workers and restaurant delivery workers wait in line to sign up for Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine at a mobile vaccine site, Wednesday, April 7, 2021, in the Sunset Park neighborhood of New York. The mobile vaccination effort includes two buses equipped with four to six vaccinators each, delivering the COVID-19 vaccine directly to communities most in need. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
US recommends ‘pause’ for J&J vaccine over clot reports

WASHINGTON — The U.S. is recommending a “pause” in using the single-dose… Continue reading

FILE-Team Canada’s Meaghan Mikkelson fights for control of the puck with U.S.A.’s Hayley Scamurra during third period of Women’s Rivalry Series hockey action in Vancouver, Wednesday, February 5, 2020. Gina Kingsbury, Hockey Canada’s director of women’s national teams, hopes a Rivalry Series against the United States can happen this winter.THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Michael Dwyer
Canadian women’s hockey team to open selection camp in Nova Scotia

Six goaltenders, 15 defenders and 26 forwards will vie for spots on Canada’s 23-player roster

Most Read