Timeline 2004 to 2006
With her form building and motivation growing, the confidence to win grew inside. Clara knew this was her chance to become World Champion and she took this opportunity with all she had in Korea and the World Single Distance Championships. And win she did. Gold. World Champion. There were approximately 20 people in the rink watching the race but she did not care. After this it was finally time to take a real break and try, for once, in the summer, to train like a speed skater. It was a relief to not race the bike again.
All that training in the summer paid off. It started with an attempted mountain traverse of the Inyo-White Mountains in California with Peter. Unfortunately, the mission was aborted a mere 50 kilometers and two major mountain passes from the end because Clara had to go up to Canada for a sponsor press conference. Over two weeks of the hardest distance hiking/mountain traversing she’d ever experienced was left unfinished. After the short trip to Canada, Clara and Peter (and a few friends) bike toured from Reno, Nevada, down the scenic 395 Highway to Bishop, California then up over the high Sierra to Yosemite National Park and back over to the East Side again. Then it was time to be a speed skater. All the specific work done in the weight room and on the dryland training paid off. Clara won a world cup 3000m and collected 2 silver medals in other world cups. It was her best racing to date. She went on to stumble a bit in the middle of the season, still winning a silver medal in the 5000m at the World All-Round Championships. Went on to win a bronze medal at the World SIngle Distance Championships in Inzell, Germany, as well as a silver medal in the Team Pursuit. Both races pre-qualified her for her second Winter Olympic Games the following winter in Torino, Italy.
Another season starting with another adventure. Somehow, Coach Xiuli Wang knew she could trust Clara to ‘get in shape’ for the month of April doing these crazy trips. This time around, Clara and Peter were at their mountain house in the Eastern Townships of Quebec wondering what to do, where to go. Clara said ‘I’ll open the atlas and whatever page we see is where we’ll go’. And that was how they ended up in the desert state of Arizona. A month was spent riding on dirt and pavement down along the mexican border, where they met friendly illegal immigrants and friendly border control guards, up along the east side of the state and into the Navajo Nation. What a trip it was. Culturally and landscape wise, it was phenomenal and ever changing. The best memories still lie with the navajo people and their open kindness. Unfortunately, the trip ended with Clara violently ill while camping up at Navajo National Monument. Fourteen hours of stomach convulsions was not a good way to spend a night in a campground. it was an unfortunate way to get to race weight. From there it was back into ‘Olympic year mode’ and back to boot camps with Coach Xiuli and the team. Winning gold, silver and multiple team pursuit medals at the opening world cups, Clara showed she was ready for the performance of a lifetime at the Torino Games. She felt different than four years earlier: she really felt like a speed skater, not like a cyclist pretending to know how to skate. This all unraveled when Clara came down with pneumonia seven weeks before the Games. Luckily she was pre-qualified because she would not have made the team if she had to do so at the Olympic trials. Arrived in Torino feeling much like she did six years earlier in Sydney- under trained and uninspired. A mediocre at best 3000m race left her in 9th place and she was nervous beyond belief for the team pursuit. As the team pursuit rounds went on she felt lifted up by the team. They finished with a silver medal and most importantly, for Clara, she finished with the belief that if she believed in the impossible, she could find something special for the 5000m race coming at the end of the Games. This something special was inspired further by learning more about the Right to Play programs in the athletes village. The envelope of inspiration was sealed when she saw, the morning of her race, a documentary on Right to Play filmed in Uganda the morning of the 5000m. She was so inspired by the transformation she saw in the children living such difficult lives, the transformation of suffering and struggle to joy, because of sport, she vowed to win that night and use the platform of success to help these kids and support the programs. In the fight of her sporting life she came from behind on the last lap of the race in the last pair against the three-time defending Olympic Champion to win her first ever gold medal at an Olympics. Joy turned to agony and Clara collapsed after the race. Later, at the press conference, she announced to Canada a $10,000.00 donation to the programs. The final tally of donations made by those who followed her call to support Right to Play was close to half a million dollars.