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Open Heart, Open Mind

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The long-awaited memoir by Canada’s most celebrated Olympian and advocate for mental health. 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 partici The long-awaited memoir by Canada’s most celebrated Olympian and advocate for mental health. 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 champion. But after more than a decade in the grueling 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, 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 readers everywhere.

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The long-awaited memoir by Canada’s most celebrated Olympian and advocate for mental health. 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 partici The long-awaited memoir by Canada’s most celebrated Olympian and advocate for mental health. 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 champion. But after more than a decade in the grueling 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, 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 readers everywhere.

30 review for Open Heart, Open Mind

  1. 4 out of 5

    Ron S

    An unusual and above average memoir from Canada's first athlete to win medals at both summer and winter Olympic Games. Athletes are usually raised in a bubble and are as dull as dishwater for it. Hughes has lived a life for more interesting than that, which she shares with honesty and clarity. Her work with Right to Play and as a spokesperson for mental health issues is included here, as well as her early years growing up in Winnipeg, and unconventional relationship with her husband Peter. Highl An unusual and above average memoir from Canada's first athlete to win medals at both summer and winter Olympic Games. Athletes are usually raised in a bubble and are as dull as dishwater for it. Hughes has lived a life for more interesting than that, which she shares with honesty and clarity. Her work with Right to Play and as a spokesperson for mental health issues is included here, as well as her early years growing up in Winnipeg, and unconventional relationship with her husband Peter. Highly recommended, this would be a great addition to the high school curriculum. While there are no shortage of memoirs that deal with depression, eating disorders, alcoholism, abuse from authority figures, divorce, growing up poor etc few are told with so much gratitude and an absence of self pity by an Olympic champion.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Elisabeth Manley

    I love reading athlete's biographies, and for once it wasn't a male hockey player so it was actually written pretty well too. Throw in Olympic race stories and I'm hooked. But Clara goes further than her career and doesn't shy away from her history with mental illnesses which was a nice honest read from a famous athlete.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    Canadian Olympian Clara Hughes offers readers a look at the woman behind the name, digging deeper than the strength and determination for which she was so well known. In this quasi-autobiography/memoir, Hughes offers a glimpse into her life as an elite athlete as well as the struggles she faced throughout her career. Growing up in Winnipeg, Hughes faced a number of obstacles at an early age, including an alcoholic father whose love was offset with a broken household. From this, Hughes drifted in Canadian Olympian Clara Hughes offers readers a look at the woman behind the name, digging deeper than the strength and determination for which she was so well known. In this quasi-autobiography/memoir, Hughes offers a glimpse into her life as an elite athlete as well as the struggles she faced throughout her career. Growing up in Winnipeg, Hughes faced a number of obstacles at an early age, including an alcoholic father whose love was offset with a broken household. From this, Hughes drifted into a childhood filled with gang associations, drugs, and booze, a life that could have spiralled into despair. It was only when she caught a speed skating race from the Calgary Olympics in 1988 that Hughes became enthralled by a new possibility, a life as an athlete. Training for a few years, Hughes was able to find her passion at the speed skating oval and left the instability of her current life behind. She found herself intoxicated with the regimented life of skating and the power of the blade, where she could escape her home life, her parents now formally separated. However, this passion with speed skating soon morphed into a love of cycling, which became Hughes' new focus. She took up competitive cycling and made a name for herself, competing at the highest levels. With this intense training came a coach whose unorthodox style pushed Hughes past her limits and into a life of self-doubt. Mockery and bullying may have pushed Hughes to strive further, but also left her hating herself and doubting the love others had to offer. The passion Hughes found on her bicycle led her to qualifying and winning a bronze at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996. While she became a praised Olympian, Hughes began to develop (or rediscover) some painful issues that resulted in severe bouts of depression, masked behind that cutthroat training regimen that left little time for reflection. While she continued to excel in the cycling world, her exterior self became a facade, as Hughes recounts through poignant chapters hinting at dark demons dwelling deep inside her. When she met her future husband, Peter, Hughes found someone with whom she could relate; another person whose carefree nature and drive to excel led to numerous exploratory adventures. While separated a great deal, Hughes was able to foster a relationship with Peter, fuelled, perhaps, by their time apart. After a decade of cycling and much success on the podium, Hughes could no longer fathom the gruelling life of countless injuries. This caused her to rediscover her passion for speed skating, and a coaching approach based more on respect than attack. With a coach who respected her dedication to success, Hughes was able to focus her attention on what she felt mattered, while still using training to mask her other issues. Hughes excelled on the oval and brought more medals home, the first Canadian to medal in both Summer and Winter Olympic Games. However, with such fame comes a requirement to do something with it. Hughes sought to advocate for those less fortunate, heading to Africa to advocate for sport as play. Her passion to bring sport to all corners of the earth seeps out through the narrative and brings the reader closer to understanding the importance of sport outside of competing. Coming full circle, Hughes addresses the pains of her personal struggles with depression and masking the agony of her youth through excessive training when she had to hang up her skates (and bike) and lived in a permanent state of retirement. The reader is able to better understand the Hughes the cameras did not capture and the pains that this elite athlete faced, putting more of an 'everyday person' spin on her life. By finding herself, both immersed in and away from sports, Hughes offers the reader a raw insight into the struggles elite athletes face away from the field/track/oval. A must-read for anyone who wants to be touched as they learn about the wonders of Olympic athleticism. Hughes pulls no punches in this book, allowing the reader to see behind the proverbial curtain. Hughes takes the time to focus on the training regimen she undertook in preparation for her numerous Olympic Games, as well as event-day preparation. Offsetting this with the struggles between the Games and the limitations that training offers to mask the struggles inside the mind or body, Hughes found herself pushed in directions she could not have forecast. Never forgetting her roots in Winnipeg, but refusing to use that as a crutch, Hughes exemplifies how hard work and determination can sometimes pay off, though it is not a certainty for Olympic glory. I found myself curious as to how Hughes could have been an Olympic caliber athlete in two sports that differed greatly, though the narrative explores this and shows the reader how she could master both sports at different points in her life. It is surely an amazing story, which flows through well-constructed chapters, offering just enough to sate the curiosity of readers. Hughes does not shy away from the abuse she faced, in many forms, throughout her life, though she did not feel strong enough to overcome it until later and with the help of many. Clara Hughes is not perfect, though perhaps that is the point of this book. This personal story is powerfully presented with a personal flavour that shows the larger picture of an Olympian who seeks not to be a god, but an ambassador of determination and hard work. If the reader takes but one thing from this book, it should be that no struggle is insurmountable. Kudos, Madam Hughes for this insightful story that passes the realm of simple biography or memoir and digs much deeper to show how even more biggest stars can live lives with flaws. Like/hate the review? An ever-growing collection of others appears at: http://pecheyponderings.wordpress.com/

  4. 4 out of 5

    Susie

    3.5 stars (good read) I found I was more interested in Clara Hughes the person rather than Clara Hughes the athlete. I am glad I decided to read this book and thank Clara for sharing her story.

  5. 5 out of 5

    AH

    Clara Hughes is an amazing athlete - my hero. Can't wait to read this one!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Aranya Iyer

    Inspiring and well-written. Easy to read...maybe too easy to read? I wish there was more detail and more development than just a layout of facts and schedules. It would be very very very cool to kind of peer into Clara's brain and thoughts more throughout the Olympic journey. But overall, great read and would recommend to all, especially, teenage girls.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Rayment

    The Good Stuff Even though her life has been tough at times, there is no self pity or blame Fascinating background in the day to day training involved in a competitive athletes life Likeable, honest writing. Feels like you are listening to a friend tell a story Admire her for what she has accomplished with her life, especially her work with Right to Play and Bell Canada Lets Talks Found it interesting what goes on during the Olympics Speaks very openly about addiction and mental illness Loved her Dad e The Good Stuff Even though her life has been tough at times, there is no self pity or blame Fascinating background in the day to day training involved in a competitive athletes life Likeable, honest writing. Feels like you are listening to a friend tell a story Admire her for what she has accomplished with her life, especially her work with Right to Play and Bell Canada Lets Talks Found it interesting what goes on during the Olympics Speaks very openly about addiction and mental illness Loved her Dad even though he was a very troubled man. She makes you feel the good in him, despite his demons Honestly I was fascinated by the training and the ins and outs of competitive sports. The incredible drive and determination is awe inspiring (ok, also remember I am a Librarian and a nerd, so sports is sooo not my thing) Interesting to learn about the pressure to dope and all about the different methods I have always been less than understanding about the importance of sport and she really made me how much sport can inspire and help someone (Ok most of my negativity comes from being shit at sports and made fun of by jocks, I still remember being insulted in high school by a girl named Christine about my lack of athleticism - I'm 45 and I still remember that moment) I really enjoyed the stories about her experiences while working on Right to Play. Truly inspiring, fun and so raw and beautiful Loved her colourful dialogue (Yup I also believe that people who swear are more honest and trustful) Amazed by the amount of eating disorders within competitive sports, Liked that she talked so openly about her own struggles. Hey we have something in common - who knew - no one is safe from that inner demon Impressed with the connection in regards to her Father at the beginning and the end of the story. Nicely done The Not So Good Stuff Jumps around a bit Favorite Quotes "As a kid, you just try to survive. You grind whatever awful things you are experiencing into dust as they're happening.' "My Dad used to say to me, "Clara, never put anyone below you, and never put anyone above you. There are good an bad people - you can't deceive yourself into thinking otherwise - but it has nothing to do with race or income." "This lesson in a taxicab on a cold winter's day showed me the potential of human beings to transcend hatred, greed, and genocide. Even now I marvel that someone could come to this kind of peace after losing so much." 4 Dewey's I received this from Simon and Schuster in exchange for an honest review

  8. 4 out of 5

    Teena in Toronto

    Clara Hughes is a Canadian cyclist and speed skater, who has won multiple Olympic medals in both sports. She is tied with Cindy Klassen as the Canadian with the most Olympic medals, with six medals total. She is one of the few athletes who have competed in both the Summer and Winter Olympic games. Because of her success in sports and her humanitarian efforts, Hughes was named to both the Order of Manitoba and as an Officer of the Order of Canada. She is involved with Right To Play, which is an at Clara Hughes is a Canadian cyclist and speed skater, who has won multiple Olympic medals in both sports. She is tied with Cindy Klassen as the Canadian with the most Olympic medals, with six medals total. She is one of the few athletes who have competed in both the Summer and Winter Olympic games. Because of her success in sports and her humanitarian efforts, Hughes was named to both the Order of Manitoba and as an Officer of the Order of Canada. She is involved with Right To Play, which is an athlete-driven international humanitarian organization that uses sports to encourage the development of youth in disadvantaged areas. She has received a star on the Canadian Walk of Fame and was inducted into Canada's Sports Hall of Fame. This book is her story of growing up in Winnipeg with a father was an alcoholic who verbally abused their mother. As a teen, she drank, used drugs and skipped school, trying to escape her home life. When she was 16, she turned her life around when she saw gold medal speed skater, Gaétan Boucher, race in the 1988 Calgary Olympics ... that's what she wanted to do. She tells of her highs and lows, of training, of lacking in confidence, meeting and marrying Peter, of the grueling physical vacations that she and Peter have taken (our idea of vacations are definitely different ... ha!), of her realization that she suffered from depression, and more. I liked the writing style. I found her to be honest, down to earth, likable and human (like freaking out when she's frustrated and angry). She's not afraid to swear and even drops the F-bomb. I was at a conference in 2010 and Clara was the "motivational" speaker. Afterwards she let everyone hold/wear her medals (yes, I did!), signed autographs and had pictures taken. Even then her mantra was open mind, open heart, warrior. Blog review post: http://www.teenaintoronto.com/2015/09...

  9. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    not going to lie, was a bit disappointed with this book. I heard about it via CBC radio and was intrigued but ultimately found it lacking in emotional depth. if I am honest with myself i found it to be a bit boring d/t being so detailed about mundane things. I feel like she only scratched the surface of the emotional/mental health issues she wrestles with in this book...I was hoping she would take us deeper and allow herself to be even more vulnerable. I enjoyed learning more about the Olympics not going to lie, was a bit disappointed with this book. I heard about it via CBC radio and was intrigued but ultimately found it lacking in emotional depth. if I am honest with myself i found it to be a bit boring d/t being so detailed about mundane things. I feel like she only scratched the surface of the emotional/mental health issues she wrestles with in this book...I was hoping she would take us deeper and allow herself to be even more vulnerable. I enjoyed learning more about the Olympics and what it's like to be professional athlete. I think she is doing very important work and is a strong, accomplished and insightful woman...but not really a great author.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    I have to admit, I wasn't all that interested when I received this book. However, my decision to make an effort to read more memoirs and biographies made me push through and get it going. What a pleasant surprise! I never expected it to be a story of such struggle. Clara Hughes has over come so many obstacles, and was honest and open about her choices, good and bad. Definitely an inspiration, and a good read!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Gina Morphy

    When a book makes you weep within the first ten pages, you know it's going to be a good one. Similarly, when it's written by one of your heroes, how can it go wrong? Clara's tales from her troubled adolescence to her Olympic highlights and work with Right To Play and Bell Let's Talk are inspiring as ever. Although I will never be an Olympic athlete, I can share in the triumphs and tribulations that come with competitive sport, as well as the major come-down of retirement. Truly a great read!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Laina

    Pretty open and honest memoir. Hard not to appreciate her struggles and incredible athletic capability after reading.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    I am grateful to Clara Hughes for having the courage to share her story and her truth. Very moving and inspiration book. I feel badly, because I really would like to give more details on my thoughts about this book. But it is published by one of the big five publishers. Note: I used togive full reviews for all of the books that I rated on GR. However, GR's new giveaway policies (Good Reads 2017 November Giveaways Policies Changes) have caused me to change my reviewing decisions. These new GR poli I am grateful to Clara Hughes for having the courage to share her story and her truth. Very moving and inspiration book. I feel badly, because I really would like to give more details on my thoughts about this book. But it is published by one of the big five publishers. Note: I used togive full reviews for all of the books that I rated on GR. However, GR's new giveaway policies (Good Reads 2017 November Giveaways Policies Changes) have caused me to change my reviewing decisions. These new GR policies seem to harm smaller publishing efforts in favour of providing advantage to the larger companies (GR Authors' Feedback), the big five publishers (Big Five Publishers). So, because of these policies from now on I will be supporting smaller publishing effort by only giving full reviews to books published by: companies outside the big five companies, indie publishers, and self-published authors. This book was published by one of the big five companies so will not receive a more detailed review by me.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Ryan Furlong

    Clara Hughes is perhaps my favourite Olympian of all time. I had wanted to read her autobiography for a long time and I am happy that I managed it get around to it during the Winter Olympics. Her experience at six Olympic games were very intriguing and exciting to read. However, it was her personal struggles that really made me see Hughes in a different light. Sharing stories of her dark past from addiction, family problems, and depression, I could not help but be shocked to know the real story Clara Hughes is perhaps my favourite Olympian of all time. I had wanted to read her autobiography for a long time and I am happy that I managed it get around to it during the Winter Olympics. Her experience at six Olympic games were very intriguing and exciting to read. However, it was her personal struggles that really made me see Hughes in a different light. Sharing stories of her dark past from addiction, family problems, and depression, I could not help but be shocked to know the real story behind the smile. I applaud Hughes' for writing such a personal book that does a great job of breaking the stigma of mental illness and encourages others to seek out the good things in life.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Emmkay

    Fast, engaging memoir by Canadian Olympian Hughes, who has triumphed at both Summer and Winter Olympics despite a troubled youth and mental health challenges. I was not a sporty kid by any stretch of the imagination, and was interested to read about how transformative involvement in sports can be for kids, both for Hughes herself and for the children she has reached out to through her charitable endeavours.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Tamara

    An interesting look into Clara’s life, told frankly and bluntly, without flourishes, rose coloured glasses, or an abundance of pride. Just straight forward, this is what Clara’s lived experience has been. I enjoyed her rather stream of conscious writing, and found her life to be quite interesting as she shared it.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Pranada Devi

    Raw and real - not just the smiling redhead draped in Olympic medals that most of Canada knows.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    Incredibly brave and honest memoir.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    Clara Hughes could have had a very different life. Her family situation was a scary place to be and she began the downward spiral but her love of skating pulled her away from the alcohol and drugs. Pushing her body to unimaginable limits to achieve sports ultimate achievement - several Olympic medals. Sadly mental health issues plagued her even in her hours of glory. A wonderful and fascinating read.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Luanne Ollivier

    You can find me glued to the television during national and world sports coverage - especially the Olympics. I remember watching Clara Hughes race over many Olympics - she is a six time Olympian with six medals to her credit - in two sports - speed skating and cycling. She has numerous other accolades and victories. But what you don't see on television is what's going on behind the scenes, what it takes for an athlete to rise to this level, the obstacles they've met, the obstacles overcome and wh You can find me glued to the television during national and world sports coverage - especially the Olympics. I remember watching Clara Hughes race over many Olympics - she is a six time Olympian with six medals to her credit - in two sports - speed skating and cycling. She has numerous other accolades and victories. But what you don't see on television is what's going on behind the scenes, what it takes for an athlete to rise to this level, the obstacles they've met, the obstacles overcome and who they are besides being a public figure and athlete. Clara Hughes' newly released memoir, Open Heart, Open Mind, lays all of that bare. Hughes' father was a verbally abusive alcoholic, Clara drank, did drugs and skipped school. When she did start to channel her energy into competitive sport she landed with a coach who was results driven, caring little about her mental health. Hughes has suffered from depression for most of her life. In 2010, she put her own struggles in the public eye when she became the national spokesperson for the Bell Let's Talk mental health initiative - "A wide-reaching, multi-year program designed to break the silence around mental illness and support mental health all across Canada." I am always appreciative of reading someone's memoir - the bravery in sharing your life with the public. Hughes shares both professional and personal. I was fascinated by the behind the scenes look at a professional athlete's training and performance. Clara's athletic accomplishments are extraordinary. But it is her personal triumphs that are outstanding. Hughes has taken that same energy and drive that she used in sports, applied it to her mental well being and advocating for others through numerous projects, such as Right to Play. The title? Hughes participated in a Squamish First Nations brushing-off ceremony in 2010.... ...."Another elder addressed each of us in turn, opening our hearts to the energy of the flame and brushing away negativity. He told us, I cannot heal you of your pain. Only you can heal yourself with your open heart and your open mind." Wise words. Great read. Amazing and inspiring woman.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Paula Dembeck

    Every Canadian knows Clara Hughes, the curly red head with the winning smile who won medals at both the summer and winter Olympic Games for cycling and speed skating. Clara is an accomplished athlete who overcame many issues growing up in a difficult home. She created a successful award winning life in sport although she still faces problems that stem from her difficult past. In this memoir, Clara shares details of her youth during which stealing, skipping school, drinking and drugs played a part Every Canadian knows Clara Hughes, the curly red head with the winning smile who won medals at both the summer and winter Olympic Games for cycling and speed skating. Clara is an accomplished athlete who overcame many issues growing up in a difficult home. She created a successful award winning life in sport although she still faces problems that stem from her difficult past. In this memoir, Clara shares details of her youth during which stealing, skipping school, drinking and drugs played a part. It was a time when she did not care about anything except getting through the day. She found a way out of that life through sport, enduring rigorous and relentless training to achieve her goals. Most people did not know how different she was from the face she presented to her public. She had never told her story even to herself, dealing with it in bits and pieces at different times in her life. But Clara has bravely decided to share her struggles with mental illness, her years of depression and self-loathing and the work she does now to stay healthy. She believes explaining her life to others helps her know herself better and she hopes by sharing, she may help others who are suffering get the help they need. During the years Clara competed in sport, she consistently showed the world the side of herself she wanted others to see – that of a strong woman who could endure the pain of competing in two demanding sports in which endurance is the key -- cycling and speed skating. Clara racked up numerous medals and awards but behind it all was a woman in distress, a woman who has had to face her demons to get on with her life. Clara describes her life growing up with a well-educated father who somehow lost his way and became an abusive and chronic alcoholic. Her mother endured the difficult life he created until finally, when Clara and her sister Dodie were still young, she told him to leave the family home. The two sisters became childhood rebels, stealing, drinking, and doing drugs. Clara found her way out of that destructive life when she viewed Gaetan Boucher on TV skating at the 1988 Olympics and decided that was what she wanted to do. The decision to turn to competitive sport required she submit to long hours of training which took up her time and kept her away from the downward spiral her sister continued to travel. Early in her career, Clara began an on-again off-again relationship with coach Mirek Mazur. His methods challenged her but he was abusive, belittling and demeaning. She hated his ways and his words but as she gained success she also became convinced she could not succeed without him. He constantly nagged her about her weight, making her feel fat and worthless. His cruel words eventually led her to hate her body, planting the seeds of a destructive eating disorder that haunted her for years. In describing their relationship, Clara is factual but also generous. She credits him for challenging her and making her want to be good at something when she was aimless and lost. But she eventually severed the relationship when she could no longer bear his abuse. They had a difficult parting. It did not end well. Clara shares the highs and lows of winning and losing through the various competitions she entered. The details of her journey serve to highlight not only the mentally and physically abusive methods of coaching staff but also the attitudes of high profile athletes whose narcissism is viewed as commitment, an invisible cloak they are encouraged to wear. Those who compete at the highest levels in sport live a life focused on themselves, their training, their performance, their accidents and their recovery. It is only when they leave competition that they find that self-absorption hard to shake. There are a few shocking revelations in these pages including Clara’s drift back to smoking and alcohol while continuing to compete. But the most surprising is that she tested positive for a banned substance in 1994 while competing at the Road World Championships in Sicily. This was during the early years of testing and knowledge about these drugs was nowhere near the level it is now. Clara has no idea when or how she consumed the banned substance but insists she has consistently competed clean. She accepted the three month suspension and was told to keep quiet about it which she did, but this part of her past has haunted her ever since. The fact she has chosen to bring it forward publically when it would otherwise never have been known, enhances the credibility of her story. She hopes by bringing it forward she can rid herself of the guilt and its effect on her conscience. By immersing herself in competitive sport steeped in the culture of winning, Clara has learned an important lesson. The rewards she worked so hard and longed for were not what she needed. She gradually came to understand that whether she won or lost a race had no impact on the guilt and self-hatred she had been dragging around with her since childhood. It was one of the defining moments of her journey to understand herself. This is an important book which shows how one person overcame a life headed in a downward spiral until it was channeled towards sport. But the relentless training and physical pain Clara endured to compete masked her problems and when she stopped competing, she hit a wall. Without clear recognizable goals, old negative thought patterns became stronger. She had always believed her toxic inner chatter was the result of striving to be better at the difficult sports she had chosen. But without the distractive pressures of training and competition, she became consumed by the thought she was not a good person. In the past, when team members or coaches noticed she was sad and lonely, they talked to her about depression, but the mere mention of the word sent Clara running off in a frenzy of denial, refusing to acknowledge the fact and accept treatment. But after stepping away from competition, she was forced to confront her illness and accept it. Clara loved sport and knew after she retired that she had to find a way to enjoy it in a way that meant more than simply winning. She found the answer by joining Right to Life, an organization that helps children around the world find a way out of their difficult circumstances through sport. She has also joined the Bell’s “Let’s Talk” program. Their goal is to create an open, accepting conversation about mental health and she is the public face of their campaign. Clara has written a very brave and honest memoir to help others who have similar problems, to show them that all they need is commitment to a goal and the deep desire to do the hard work to reach it. Just as one would expect, her prose is clean, sparse and precise. The open way she shares the effect mental illness has had on her family and her battle with depression is to be admired. It also serves to remind readers how the expectations an adoring public places on world class athletes to reach a particular goal on a specific day and at a specific time can be so stressful it can ruin lives. One cannot help but admire Clara, not only for her accomplishments as an athlete but for honestly sharing difficult aspects of her life. She deserves our thanks for this book as well as her commitment to serve others through her work with Right to Life and the Let’s Talk Project. One cannot help but respect and commend her for all she has accomplished.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Rizwana

    Clara Hughes is a compelling, Canadian athlete, whose accomplishments are unmatched. Her book starts of very compelling and seems to whither away by the end. This book is more of a memoir than a biography, although, at times, these lines blur. I really wanted to learn more about her family and how she dealt with these complicated relationships, but for reasons unclear, perhaps protecting their privacy, we learn only cursory information about her family members. Her Dad was an angry alcoholic, her Clara Hughes is a compelling, Canadian athlete, whose accomplishments are unmatched. Her book starts of very compelling and seems to whither away by the end. This book is more of a memoir than a biography, although, at times, these lines blur. I really wanted to learn more about her family and how she dealt with these complicated relationships, but for reasons unclear, perhaps protecting their privacy, we learn only cursory information about her family members. Her Dad was an angry alcoholic, her sister was/is troubled, and her mother, long-suffering. While we learn her Dad's and sister's names, Kenneth and Dodie respectively, her mother's name is not ever mentioned. Odd. Her tales of her wild youth, refocused through a keen commitment to sport, specifically training for the Olympics, are a bit more fleshed out. She is pushed by an abusive coach whose pressure on her results in both athletic success and intensified, undiagnosed depression. Speaking of which, Hughes devotes only a small part of her book to her struggles with depression. Much like her races, she seems to be in a hurry to get through with it. She speaks at length about her loving relationship with her husband, Peter. Minute details of the food they ate during their camping honeymoon are noted. These are more details than are necessary to flesh out her overall story. I really enjoyed the first half of this book and expected the latter half to deliver the same. It did not. I was left wanting for information about her personal relationships (with family), how she survived financially (was it only road races?) and the efforts to deal with her depression (too cut and dry in one chapter). I really admired her tenacity, strength and perseverance. I appreciated her honesty and would have liked to have learned more about her personal struggles.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Enid Wray

    Nothing less than I've come to expect from Clara Hughes. Never really having paid any particular attention to either of her sports - me having been a figure skater, swimmer as well as water/snow skier - it was nonetheless hard not to know who she was as an athlete. As an adult - particularly as an educator and especially now in my role as Teacher Librarian - both my personal and professional worlds seem to frequently intersect with Clara. Most recently, Clara blew me away on Canada Reads 2016. Wh Nothing less than I've come to expect from Clara Hughes. Never really having paid any particular attention to either of her sports - me having been a figure skater, swimmer as well as water/snow skier - it was nonetheless hard not to know who she was as an athlete. As an adult - particularly as an educator and especially now in my role as Teacher Librarian - both my personal and professional worlds seem to frequently intersect with Clara. Most recently, Clara blew me away on Canada Reads 2016. While I enjoy Lawrence Hill, and enjoyed The Illegal, it is nowhere near my most favourite of his books. (Without any sour grapes my pick - The Hero's Walk by Anita Rau Badami - clearly should have won. Why didn't it win? Because despite Vinay Virmani's brilliant defense of The Hero's Walk... it was one of those moments when the personal and the political - writ small and large - meshed so perfectly that it was clear from the outset that it was Clara's moment to shine. Her eloquence. Her honesty. Her openness. Her personal story. Her passion. Her compassion. The fact that she is one of the most incredibly beautiful human beings to walk this earth all came together in that week. Much of that was - I'll take liberties here and presume - as result of her journey in writing this book. If you want to know how to be a better person in your life and in this world, read this book, find that one thing - or person - to give you purpose, and go do good things. I'm not trying to be glib here, as I've had my own struggles with depression in my life, and have dealt with alcoholism in the family. I've pushed through it. But I had support. Be that support for someone you know.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Catherine Cronin

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Clara Hughes has been one of my heroines for years, initially because of her amazing achievements in sport, but more recently because of her advocacy for childhood play and mental health and her infectious smile. Her autobiography is gritty and candid. She pulls no punches in describing her dysfunctional family, wild teenage years, and ongoing struggles with depression, food and substance abuse. It's quite amazing that she was able to channel her energy and anger into multiple medals at both Sum Clara Hughes has been one of my heroines for years, initially because of her amazing achievements in sport, but more recently because of her advocacy for childhood play and mental health and her infectious smile. Her autobiography is gritty and candid. She pulls no punches in describing her dysfunctional family, wild teenage years, and ongoing struggles with depression, food and substance abuse. It's quite amazing that she was able to channel her energy and anger into multiple medals at both Summer and Winter Olympics....six times! This is a fast and fascinating read. I would have liked to better understand Clara's mother, her sister Dodie, and her husband Peter (hence the four stars) but I do understand their need for some privacy. We learn more about her late father. Clara's depressive symptoms, as she describes them, did not include suicidal thoughts. She is a Canadian heroine and role model for many. I wish her a happy and fulfilled retirement.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Sherry Seymour

    One of my professors used to tell us that flawless characters are boring. They’re also not a true reflection of humanity. Hughes’ autobiography is filled with interesting people. The love/hate, respect/disrespect relationships we have in our lives are always hard to fully comprehend. In literature, we are all too often annoyed with plots that don’t solve every mystery. But, life has loose ends, some of which may never be tied. The story lover in me was unsatisfied with Hughes’ lack of profound s One of my professors used to tell us that flawless characters are boring. They’re also not a true reflection of humanity. Hughes’ autobiography is filled with interesting people. The love/hate, respect/disrespect relationships we have in our lives are always hard to fully comprehend. In literature, we are all too often annoyed with plots that don’t solve every mystery. But, life has loose ends, some of which may never be tied. The story lover in me was unsatisfied with Hughes’ lack of profound spiritual awakening. I wanted “the answers” as a model to lead my own life… However, the realist in me feels an affinity with her, respecting her for her honest reflection of where she’s been and where she’s headed now. She is a fellow struggling human, trying to find peace with herself. She has more to share with Canadians than her super-human athletic achievements. I particularly wish that all young Canadians have the chance to read this book. It could change their lives.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    I was pleased to receive Clara's book through a GoodReads Giveaway. I am so impressed by Clara and her openness to share her difficult family background and struggle with depression. Her ability to cope with that depression through sport is somewhat astounding for me, as do not have that same drive and determination. Clara is an inspiration for so many reasons, and this book tells us why. She is open, honest and humble. The book is well balanced between her sport and personal life, and is very r I was pleased to receive Clara's book through a GoodReads Giveaway. I am so impressed by Clara and her openness to share her difficult family background and struggle with depression. Her ability to cope with that depression through sport is somewhat astounding for me, as do not have that same drive and determination. Clara is an inspiration for so many reasons, and this book tells us why. She is open, honest and humble. The book is well balanced between her sport and personal life, and is very readable and well written. I so enjoyed watching Clara compete and win in the Winter Olympics, and am pleased to know more about her.

  27. 5 out of 5

    H

    Pros: appropriate level of swearing, held my interest the whole read even though I'm not into sports/long distance anything, did not hold anything back. Enjoyed the local colour, she grew up one neighbourhood over from my own. One con: I died a little when she talked about a cycling accident where she took off her "Oakley sunglasses" and I immediately googled and found out they are one of her sponsors. I know Canadian athletes get the short end of the funding stick but in your memoir?? Otherwise g Pros: appropriate level of swearing, held my interest the whole read even though I'm not into sports/long distance anything, did not hold anything back. Enjoyed the local colour, she grew up one neighbourhood over from my own. One con: I died a little when she talked about a cycling accident where she took off her "Oakley sunglasses" and I immediately googled and found out they are one of her sponsors. I know Canadian athletes get the short end of the funding stick but in your memoir?? Otherwise great read!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Katie Martin

    I have to admit I was a bit disappointed by this book. It was different than I expected. Clara is different than I expected. I didn't realize she had such a troubled past and her accomplishments (first Canadian to win medals in both the winter and summer Olympics) are amazing given everything she went through. I liked learning about Right to Play and the Olympics but, overall, found it to be a bit boring.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Meg

    Sport, depression, body image, growing up in families with alcoholism and anger management issues. I might empathise with a number of these issues. also, holy crap Hughes is a fantastic multisport athlete! the writing isn't fancy, but it is honest.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Twila Martin

    Wow! This is one of those books that I will keep forever to read again and again whenever I need inspiration. Clara's story is thought provoking, sometimes crazy and a great read! Any parent of any athlete who has ever competed at a higher level will seem some very striking resemblances

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