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By Katie Stewart
Ottawa Citizen

Clara Hughes among new members of Order of Canada

April 8, 2010

OTTAWA — Clara Hughes is no stranger to medals.

As an Olympian in speedskating and cycling, Hughes has won one gold, one silver and four bronze medals. Canada cheered her on as she won the bronze for the 5,000-metre speedskating race at the Winter Games in Vancouver.

However, her most recent accomplishment has nothing to do with being the fastest athlete.

With a bright smile and tears streaming down her face, she was recognized for the humanitarian work she’s done for Right to Play, an organization that brings sport to children in developing countries.

“This medal isn’t as trying,” Hughes said, laughing. “I don’t feel as if I’m going to collapse, and my lungs are going to explode.”

Hughes was one of 43 recipients invested into the Order of Canada ceremony at Rideau Hall on Wednesday.

“I feel very proud and honoured,” said Hughes. “I’m still in a state of disbelief.”

The Order of Canada was created in 1967 to recognize outstanding achievement, dedication to the community and service to the nation. Since its creation, more than 5,000 people have been invested.

“You work in a wide range of areas, but what brings you together is your willingness to help shape humanity and leave a mark on the world,” said Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean as she bestowed the honour to recipients whose careers ranged from law and politics, to sports and the arts.

“She (Jean) said she was one of my biggest supporters,” said Willie O’Ree, the first black NHL hockey player. O’Ree explained that, of all of the memorable moments in his life — which include the first time he stepped on the ice as an NHL player in 1968 and when he scored his first goal, this was No. 1.

“The Order of Canada is the highest award I’ve ever received in my lifetime,” said O’Ree.

Other notable recipients included Barry Strayer, who played a principle role in writing the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and who said he was honoured by the award as he “feels very attached to this country.”

Marc Kielburger, the co-founder of both Free the Children and Me to We, which tries to inspire youth to take active roles in their communities to make a difference, regardless of their age, was also honoured Wednesday.

“I’m so proud to be a Canadian today and be surrounded by distinguished people who have spent their lives dedicated to the public service,” said Kielburger. “I couldn’t be happier.”

Ottawa Citizen

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