LOCAL Olympic heroine Clara Hughes has no regrets about retiring from competitive sport, but said her decision really sank in just last week.
Hughes, who made the announcement after competing in cycling at this year's summer Olympics in London, England, said she was recently in a parade in Toronto when it hit her that she is now a former Olympic athlete.
"I just realized this was the last time I will be a current Olympian," she said.
"I'll be in the history books now. It is nice to think I exhausted the possibilities and then some. All the opportunities I had were great.
"I'm also really happy at knowing when it is time to move on. But for the rest of my life, every time I go on the ice or get on a bike, I am able to look back."
Hughes had a stellar career, competing and medalling in both the summer and winter Olympic Games in speed skating and cycling. She is the only Olympic athlete ever to win medals at both the summer and winter Games.
Hughes, along with three-time Paralympic Games wheelchair rugby medallist Jared Funk, women's curling champion Jill Officer and women's ice hockey medallist Fiona Smith-Bell, were meeting the public at the opening of the Royal Bank's Sage Creek branch. The four athletes are part of the bank's RBC Olympian program, where they travel across the country sharing their Olympic and Paralympic experiences.
Funk, of Niverville, who has won two silver medals and a bronze with his team at the Olympics, thought he had retired, "but I don't have my gold yet."
He said he will keep training, but take it easier for the next two years while considering another bid.
Both athletes said it was an honour to wear the Maple Leaf on their athletic jerseys while competing.
"I wore the flag on my chest when we played, and I love it," Funk said.
"When I was a first-time Olympian in Atlanta, I was standing at the starting line and saw the Maple Leaf on my chest... I felt I had all of Canada inside me," Hughes said. "It made me feel I could take on the world. That's something I'll really miss.
"But it will always be part of me."