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London Games a goodbye to the Olympics for several Canadian athletes

Jim Morris
Eh Game

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Clara Hughes left no doubt that she would be calling it quits after London.

It's been an Olympics of goodbyes.

Some of Canada's most prominent athletes have announced the London Games will be their final Olympics. Several others have yet to utter the word retirement but it's unlikely they will compete at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.

Cyclist Clara Hughes, who at 39 years old competed in her sixth Olympics, didn't leave any doubt.

"This is really it,'' she said after finishing fifth in the women's time trial. "I don't want to dedicate my life to this anymore. For 22 years this was my life.

"This is it. And I'm OK with that. It brings me joy to know that.''

[Slideshow: Canadian Olympians who've likely performed in their final Games]

Other athletes who have said this is definitely their last Games include divers Alexandre Despatie and Emilie Heymans, swimmer Brent Hayden and wrestler Tonya Verbeek.

Athletes who have probably competed at their last Olympics include swimmer Julia Wilkinson, 25; triathlete Simon Whitfield, 37, the Canadian flag-bearer for the opening ceremonies; cyclists Tara Whitten, 32, and Zach Bell, 29; trampoline star Karen Cockburn, 31; heptathlon athlete Jessica Zelinka, a 30-year-old mother of a three-year-old; and shot-putter Dylan Armstrong, 31.

Verbeek won a silver medal Thursday, to go with the silver and bronze she had won at two previous Games.

"Today I got to compete and do what I do and just finish if off,'' said the Thorold, Ont., resident who turns 35 next week.

Despatie, the 27-year-old two-time Olympic silver medallist did not reach the podium in London. Just making it to Games was a victory after bashing his head on a diving board in June while training for a competition in Madrid, Spain.

[Related: Watching the Olympics? So is everyone else in Canada]

Despatie needed surgery to repair a 10-centimetre cut and suffered what was called "a small concussion.''

"I did my best,'' he told reporters after finishing 11th in the three-metre springboard final. "I did everything I had to be here.

"I have to be proud of the fact I went all the way to do what I set out to do and that was competing in my fourth Olympics.''

Despatie may compete at the next world championships.

Heymans, 30, of St. Lambert, Que., made Olympic history when she won a bronze medal with Jennifer Abel in the three-metre synchronized event. The 30-year-old from St. Lambert, Que., became the first female diver to win medals at four consecutive Olympics.

"It's been great from the beginning," she said. "I think getting my fourth medal here in four Olympics was awesome.''

[More: Richard Weinberger wins bronze for Canada in open-water marathon]

Hayden, 28, won the bronze medal in the 100-metres freestyle, then told a crowd at Canada House he was retiring.

"I didn't know I was going to do that before I walked on stage," said the Mission, B.C., native who will be married after the Games. "I felt this was where I wanted to tell people I was done."

Other athletes will need some time before making their final decision.

Both Whitten and Bell were considered favourites to win a medal in the omnium but neither reached the podium.

Bell's wife Rebecca is seven months pregnant with the couple's first child. The  Watson Lake, Yukon, native isn't sure another Olympics is in the cards.

"There are one and a half people in the crowd that are going to have to answer that question before I do," he said. ''It's not totally off the radar, but we're still a ways away from that discussion I think.''

[Also: Why Olympic athletes aren't at risk for pushing their physical limits]

Whitten may resume her PhD studies at the University of Edmonton. She'll make a decision about retirement "when I have a bit more perspective.''

For Zelinka, spending long stretches of time away from husband Nathaniel and daughter Anika are difficult. It's hard to see her competing for another four years.

Armstrong finished fifth in London after a fourth-place at the 2008 Beijing Games. He plans to compete at next year's world championships but will be 35 by Rio.

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