Olympic speedskater and cyclist Clara Hughes reached into her purse and pulled out proof of what can happen when kids get a chance to play.
"This is what's possible," Hughes said, flashing her six Olympic medals.
Hughes was in Winnipeg on Saturday to attend two separate events to celebrate her achievements in sports. City officials announced the redeveloped recreation facility at the former Kelvin Community Centre Site in Elmwood will be named in Hughes' honour. Then Saturday evening, Hughes was among a number of athletes inducted into the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame.
Hughes announced her retirement following the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. She competed in a total of six Olympic Games and is the only athlete ever to win medals at both the Summer and Winter Games. Hughes won two bronze medals in cycling and four in speedskating, including a gold medal from the 2006 Games in Turin.
Hughes said being honoured in her hometown "means the world" as she is proud to be a part of a legacy of successful Manitoba athletes.
"This is where I'm from and I'm proud of those roots, and proud of where I've gone in the world with the tenacity that I have from growing up here," she said.
Early Saturday afternoon, Hughes and her mom, Maureen, walked from the Elmwood home where she grew up to the former site of the Kelvin Community Centre on Henderson Highway where officials announced the redeveloped facility under construction will be named in her honour. Mayor Sam Katz and Local Government Minister Ron Lemieux recently confirmed $700,000 in funding to replace an outdoor hockey rink, build an accessible playground and place other amenities at the site of the former community centre, which was torn down in 2008.
Katz said Hughes is a role model for Elmwood and the entire city for her contribution to sport and the community. Hughes is involved with a global Right to Play organization, which aims to empower children facing adversity through play. She has also become a spokeswoman in support of mental health programs after speaking out about her own depression.
"She picked this particular site because Elmwood is her home. She played soccer, softball and ringette right here," Katz said. "I'm happy Clara chose this site because members of this community have long waited to see Clara's name recognized here."
Hughes said the former Kelvin site is where she first started to develop her athleticism. She said every child deserves to have a safe, accessible place to play and grow, and whenever she's in Winnipeg she thinks of all the people who believed in her.
"I feel like we all have that potential inside and kids just need a chance. They need a place and space to go to blossom and flourish. This recreation area here I think is going to do that for the community," Hughes said.
Saturday evening, Hughes was inducted into the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame at a ceremony at the Victoria Inn. Ed Belfour, Morris Glimcher, Kelly Hand, Michael Ireland, Harry Langford, Sandy (Newsham) Maskiw, Grant Strandbrook, and the 1978 and 1980 University of Manitoba Bisons volleyball team, along with the 1992-95 University of Winnipeg Wesmen basketball teams were also honoured as inductees.
Hughes was previously awarded the Order of Manitoba in 2006 and made an Officer of the Order of Canada a year later. She was inducted into Canada's Sports Hall of Fame in 2010.
Hughes credits Manitoba's homegrown "grit" as part of the success of so many local athletes.
"It's because we have grit. I always say that we have the edge and street smarts and if you grow up playing sports in this weather, this Winnipeg winter, you can do anything," she said.