From one of Canada’s most decorated Olympians comes a raw but life-affirming story of one woman’s struggle with depression.
In a world where winning meant everything, her biggest competitor was herself.
In 2006, when Clara Hughes stepped onto the Olympic podium in Torino, Italy, she became the first and only athlete ever to win multiple medals in both Summer and Winter Games. Four years later, she was proud to carry the Canadian flag at the head of the Canadian team as they participated in the opening ceremony of the Vancouver Olympic Winter Games. But there’s another story behind her celebrated career as an athlete, behind her signature billboard smile.
While most professional athletes devote their entire lives to training, Clara spent her teenage years using drugs and drinking to escape the stifling home life her alcoholic father had created in Elmwood, Winnipeg. She was headed nowhere fast when, at sixteen, she watched transfixed in her living room as gold medal speed skater Gaétan Boucher effortlessly raced in the 1988 Calgary Olympics. Dreaming of one day competing herself, Clara channeled her anger, frustration and raw ambition into the endurance sports of speed skating and cycling. By 2010, she had become a six-time Olympic medalist.
But after more than a decade in the gruelling world of professional sports that stripped away her confidence and bruised her body, Clara began to realize that her physical extremes, her emotional setbacks, and her partying habits were masking a severe depression. After winning bronze in the last speed skating race of her career, she decided to retire from that sport, determined to repair herself. She has emerged as one of our most committed humanitarians, advocating for a variety of social causes both in Canada and around the world. In 2010, she became national spokesperson for Bell Canada’s Let’s Talk campaign in support of mental health awareness, using her Olympic standing to share the positive message of the power of forgiveness.
Told with honesty and passion, Open Heart, Open Mind is Clara’s personal journey through physical and mental pain to a life where love and understanding can thrive. This revelatory and inspiring story will touch the hearts of all Canadians.
“An amazing athlete, a great person, and a wonderful motivating example for all!”
—Joé Juneau, ice hockey Olympic medalist and former NHL player
“Clara Hughes is both an extraordinary and an ordinary Canadian. This honest memoir reveals the determination of a champion to overcome external adversity and internal struggles, finding her place as an athlete, an advocate, and a person.”
—Dr. David Goldbloom, Senior Medical Advisor, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
“Clara’s story is just like her: It is energetic, strong, full of character, and very powerful. You really feel the determination within her and you cannot fail to wish you could award her another gold medal for the way she turned her life around and makes it her duty to help others.”
—Gaétan Boucher, speed skating Olympic medalist
“Clara brings us along on her journey from childhood to her incredible Olympic success, through her victories and her failures, all while dealing with her own personal torment. I now believe Clara to be superhuman, not for her incredible Olympic success and athletic feats, but for her dogged battle against depression, first for herself and now for the rest of us through her advocacy work. I couldn’t stop reading.”
—Johann Koss, CEO, Right to Play International