Timeline – 2001 to 2003
A return to the ice. Moved to Calgary, Alberta, to pursue this crazy dream of being an Olympic speed skater. With only a year and a half on the long blades under her belt over a decade earlier, she was determined to prove herself and earn a spot on Canada’s Olympic Team. Only problem was she had only 16 months to do just that. After two weeks in Calgary, found her teacher in Coach Xiuli Wang. A former World Champion speed skater from China, Xiuli was a technical expert who had the ability to break down the nuances and intricacies speed skating. In seven weeks, she made the National Team. In three months, finished in seventh place at her first World Championships on ice. In that time she traveled to Norway and skated in the Viking Ship, just like she imagined years before.
Trained as a cyclist all season and then got back on the ice in September. Finished 5th place in a World Cup speed skating 5000m race and second place at the Olympic Trials. Made her first Winter Olympics. Most people thought she would be satisfied with that alone, but there were bigger goals to grab. Firmly believed she could make the podium in the 5000m. After finishing 9th place in the 3000m, did just that. Skated to a bronze medal in the 5000m race. Became the only Canadian to win medals in both Summer and Winter Olympics. Stopped the skating season after the Olympics and went back on the bike. Won some races and made the team for the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester, England. Won the time trial at Commonwealth as well as a bronze medal in the points race on the track. Flew from England home to Canada for a day then up to Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, where she met Peter to begin a much belated honeymoon: a bike tour of the Dempster Highway. Rode way up north camping in the bush, through the Arctic Circle to Inuvik. Met a girl who knew a guy who flew a plane and next they knew, Clara and Peter were on the Arctic Ocean in Tuktuyuktuk. Hitched a ride back down from Inuvik to Dawson City, hiked the Tombstone Mountain area then rode all the way back down to Whitehorse. A month total of bike touring. Then back on the ice for the skating season. Won her first world cup speed skating in a 3000m race in Erfurt, Germany. Won another silver medal in a world cup in Heerenveen, Holland.
Now you’re probably wondering just how Clara was doing all these things, with little rest….something had to give and it was her back that screamed ‘no more!’. After winning the 5000m and finishing 3rd in the 3000m at the World All-Round Championships, Clara blew her back out. She was in the basement lifting a bike and ca-boom. Back injury. The most intense, inescapable pain she’d ever experienced. Still managed to finish 2nd overall in the world cup as well as with a silver medal in the World Single Distance Championships in Berlin, Germany. Limped out of the skating season feeling sensations of burn out once again. Decided after a few weeks off to go down to Mexico, back to Baja, with Peter, for another bike tour. This time things started out pretty good and ended in disaster. After a month of riding the road and dirt criss-crossing the desert peninsula, Clara blew her back out again lifting her bike onto the tram once back in San Diego, California. This was a trend that would go on all summer. She vowed to herself to finish bike racing on a high note after deciding she needed to choose between the ice and the bike. Trained herself into good enough shape to be competitive at the Pan American Games in the Dominican Republic. After winning gold, silver and bronze, she knew that was it, at least for now, for the bike. After finally getting the time off she needed to let her back heal, she was back on the ice, and out of shape. With the idea of building through the season, she put her ego in check and went through some mediocre races all fall in the world cup.