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This article was published 1/8/2012 (2731 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
HAMPTON COURT, England — With the finish at Hampton Court Palace fast approaching, Canadian cyclist Clara Hughes furiously worked her pedals as she made one last push for the line.
She did it all with a smile on her face as she soaked up the joy of competing on the Olympic stage one last time.
Hughes capped an incredible Olympic career with a fifth-place finish in the women's time trial at the London Games on Wednesday. She was almost a minute behind American Kristin Armstrong, who successfully defended her Olympic title.
Judith Arndt of Germany won silver and Olga Zabelinskaya of Russia was third. Hughes was about 30 seconds away from reaching the podium at the Games for a seventh time.
"I knew today, I knew in the last week, in the last month that this is the last time I would have the chance to race in the Olympics," Hughes said. "I'm really proud of what I did."
Hughes and former long-track speedskating teammate Cindy Klassen share the honour of being the country's most decorated Olympians. Hughes won two cycling medals at the 1996 Games in Atlanta and went on to capture four more in speedskating over the last three Winter Olympics.
She won bronze two years ago in Vancouver and returned to cycling later that year. Now 39, she's one of only five athletes ever to win medals in both the Summer and Winter Games.
Hughes was 32nd in the women's road race last week and nearly pulled off a podium finish Wednesday in warm, breezy conditions before a raucous crowd south of London.
Hughes was satisfied with the fifth-place result, her voice cracking with emotion as she provided thoughtful answers to questions from reporters. When asked how she wants to be remembered as an Olympian, she paused a few seconds before responding.
"I guess maybe that I just did things usually with a smile," Hughes said. "I think I could win with a smile and I could lose with a smile as well because I never fail in emptying myself in what I do. I never fail in approaching what I do in the best way. So that's what I'm most satisfied with."
"So I really hope that people will remember the way I did what I did," she added. "Not what I did, but the way in which I did it."
The other Canadian in the women's race, Denise Ramsden of Yellowknife, finished the 29-kilometre race in 19th place.
Victoria native and Giro d'Italia winner Ryder Hesjedal was never a factor in the 44-kilometre men's time trial.
Local favourite Bradley Wiggins emerged victorious and the Tour de France winner was joined on the podium by fellow Brit Christopher Froome. Tony Martin of Germany won silver.
Hughes, a Winnipeg native who lives in Glen Sutton, Que., revealed that she fractured a vertebrae in a crash last May in Gatineau, Que. She had regular treatment sessions but kept the severity of the injury private so it wouldn't be a distraction ahead of the Games.
"I was racing and training with a broken back for six weeks," she said.
Hughes still plans to compete at other events this season but beyond that her future is unclear.
— The Canadian Press