So long Clara

And thanks for all the medals

In the last race of her career, speed skater Clara Hughes blasted around the Richmond oval to claim bronze in the ladies’ 5000m race. Which means tonight’s medal ceremony is going to be the mother of all retirement parties.

“I’m ecstatic, that was the best race of my life,” said the four-time Olympian. “Now I’m officially retired and know that I’ll never feel like this again.”

What a way to go out, though. Hughes took to the ice after four other pairs had already skated. But by the end of her third lap she was already enjoying a commanding lead. She finished the race in 6 minutes, 55.73 seconds, arms raised high in the air and that characteristic Hughes smile beaming out to the cheering crowd.

The Czech Republic’s Martina Sablikova took the gold with a time of 6:50:91, while Stephanie Beckert of Germany claimed second at 6:51:39.

Hughes’ third-place finish gave her her sixth Olympic medal, tying fellow speed skater Cindy Klassen for the most Canadian medals. (Klassen placed 12th with a time of 7:22:09.)

Hughes said racing in front of the boisterous hometown crowd made the moment even more special to her. “It fed me,” she said. “It was pure sugar out there and it sustained me.”

After the final race of the afternoon, Hughes jogged the entire way around the inside edge of the track, waving and blowing kisses to those in the stands. Halfway around someone gave her a Canadian flag, which she wrapped around her shoulders for the rest of her victory lap—the last one she will ever experience.