Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Olympian's upbeat talk inspires alma mater

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Six-time Olympic medallist Clara Hughes wrapped up a pit stop in Winnipeg with a visit to her former high school Monday.

Hughes, approaching the final leg of Clara's Big Ride, dropped by Elmwood High School to speak to Grade 7 students about mental-health awareness before jumping on her bike and heading east to Kenora.

Clara's Big Ride is on a 110-day cycling tour across much of Canada in support of mental-health awareness.

The 12,000-kilometre tour wraps up in Ottawa on Canada Day.

Hughes arrived at Clara Hughes Recreation Park during Saturday's deluge and enjoyed a day off Sunday. She said the visit home recharged her batteries for the scheduled 212-km trek to Kenora Monday.

"(The break) has been phenomenal. It means the world to me. And the wind, we can feel, is a westerly wind -- we are heading east -- so I can say I'm leaving with the wind at my back, and it feels great," Hughes said moments before hopping on her bike.

Prior to leaving, Hughes talked to a group of 250 students at the Elmwood High School gymnasium. She implored them to be cognizant of friends who may be suffering and to take active roles in getting the proper help for them.

Hughes, who went public with her own depression a few years ago, is one of over seven million Canadians who suffer with metal-health issues.

Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger was among the large group of students, teachers and parents who were on hand to see Hughes off.

"She's got all of Manitoba behind her," Selinger said. "It rained love in Manitoba when she came in on Saturday and it's going to rain love all the way to Ottawa. She has not only the wind at her back, she has over a million Manitobans that (have) her back as well."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 17, 2014 A4

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