Clara Hughes scores for humanity
We are obsessed with the winter olympics here. My seven-year old daughter is a born athlete (adopted, naturally) and she wants to watch everything. I mean everything. Like curling, a sport my mother could win a gold medal in.
I don’t give a rat’s backside about sports in general, but the coverage- the Canadian coverage at least- is all about the human interest angle. Try as I might I just can’t resist a sappy story. A figure skater whose mother just died who finds the courage to take to the ice to honour her mother’s dream. A ski-cross champion who rose from the depths of addiction to compete on the world stage. And so on, ad nauseum.
But in the range of human interest stories, Clara Hughes stands out.
Her sports history is too long to type out- let’s sum it up by pointing out that she is one of only four athletes in the history of the modern olympics to win medals in both summer and winter games and the only one to win multiple medals in both. Pretty much earned the right to let her head swell up, right? But when the interviewer asks if this means she is Canada’s greatest athlete, she doesn’t even pause: “No (laughs). Canada has so many great athletes. And so many great people in music, the arts, education, and other fields.”
Let’s pause for a moment to consider that, proud as I am of our athletic canucks, it’s not exactly the height of arrogance to consider oneself our greatest one. But I digress. I am a teacher, and now that I have been officially elevated to the rank of olympic hero, I am disposed to like this chick.
But it gets better. The announcer goes on to tell the story of her first gold medal in Turin in 2006. Apparently, before the race she said, “If I win the gold, I am going to empty my bank account and donate it all to Right To Play. [Right to play works to give the world’s most destitute children (think street children, child soldiers, refugee camps) the right to be actually be children: “To improve the lives of children in some of the most disadvantaged areas of the world by using the power of sport and play for development, health and peace.”] Clara wins the gold. She empties her bank account. And she donates the $10,000 to Right to Play.
Ten fucking thousand dollars. Of her own money. Let’s put this in perspective- Clara Hughes is not a professional hockey player who gives ten grand a year in tips to lap dancers. She is a speed skater and Nike is not exactly breaking down her door. Assuming that she gets the elite level of funding from Sport Canada, she lives on an allowance of $1500 a month. Let me and my calculator do that math for you: that’s $18,000 a year.* When’s the last time any of us donated more than half a year’s salary to charity?
* Yeah, she probably has some other form of income, but come on- she’s a Canadian speed skater. She’s not exactly rolling in it.