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Clara Hughes broke her back 2 months before the Olympics

Clara Hughes placed fifth in her final Olympic race on Wednesday (Frank Gunn, The Canadian Press)

As if the Legend of Clara Hughes could grow any more.

Canada's living, breathing case for greatest Olympian ever (subject to qualifiers) had her Olympic valedictory with a fifth-place finish at London 2012 in the individual women's time trial on Wednesday. Afterward, in time-honoured never-let-on-you're-hurt Canadian fashion, she admitted she was injured more seriously in a crash two months before the Games than was publicly acknowledged.

[Related: Hughes ends her Olympic career with a smile]

From Jonathan Gatehouse:

Towards the end of the media scrum, Hughes finally let slip a little secret. A horrible crash at a road race in Gatineau, Quebec in late May, left her with a fractured vertebrae.

"I was racing and training with a broken back for six weeks."

She had blogged about the pain and discomfort, but she had never disclosed the severity of the injury.

Hughes said that was because she didn't want to talk about it. (Macleans


As if Hughes did not already seem too good to be true. The six-time, two-sport medallist's final race is a tale that will best be told by Yahoo!'s writers who are on the ground in London, so it would not do to cut their grass from five time zones away. Considering how much her threshold for pain was taxed by having a broken bone in a critical area of the body such as the back, it's remarkable anyone could could finish fifth, especially in her second sport. (A cyclist who is north of 35 doesn't seem to be abnormal since gold medallist Kristin Armstrong is 10 days away from turning 39 herself and silver winner Judith Arndt is 36, but with all due respect, they didn't spend half of the past Olympic cycle training for speed skating.)

One last vignette to share about Clara Hughes. She made sure to pay homage to the late, great Toronto Star Olympics reporter nonpareil Randy Starkman, extending the Canadian tribute to the journalist.

From Eric Reguly:

She said she had her fans and Starkman in her heart throughout the Olympics. "Randy is here with us," she said.

While Hughes, a former medal-winning speed skater, had coveted another Olympic medal, her disappointment was either well hidden or overcome with pride.

"I'm just really, really thankful I had the chance to do this one more time, that I was good enough to represent Canada," she said. "Unfortunately I wasn't good enough to represent Canada on the podium, but I can be really proud of what I did." (Globe & Mail)

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Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at neatesager@yahoo.ca and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.

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