A Prince Albert athlete has made it to one of the biggest tournaments in the world.
Erica Gavel is currently in Rio in anticipation for the 2016 Paralympics. Gavel will represent Canada in the Wheelchair Basketball event, starting on Thursday when the Canadians take on Great Britain.
paNOW caught up with Gavel via email to get her thoughts heading into the tournament.
paNOW: While playing able-body basketball at the University of Saskatchewan you were told you couldn’t ever play sports again after receiving your third surgery, on the same knee, in a three-year period. How did you get from that point in your career, to dawning the red maple leaf at the Paralympics?
Erica Gavel: To be completely honest, it is hands down, the most terrifying thing I have ever signed up for. I had never played wheelchair basketball before, I was still grieving with the loss of my partial healthy knee and was really depressed. When I found out I had an opportunity to represent Canada in Rio, or if worst came to worst, Tokyo, I would remind myself of the pride I had watching our Senior Women’s National Basketball Team qualify and compete in London. It looked like an experience that couldn’t be replicated in anything else. That definitely inspired me and kept me motivated in hard times. In addition to this, my support team has been nothing short of amazing. I handpicked my IST and we formed our own little bubble. Bruce Craven, Craven Sport Sevices, Rhonda Shishkin, Kent Kowalski, Saskatchewan Wheelchair Sports Association, and Huskie Athletics (especially my basketball coaches), provided me with the resources to make this idea come to fruition.
PN: Much of the same Canadian team that won the silver medal at the Parapan Am games in 2015 is returning for this Paralympics. How do you think the team will do against the rest of the world?
EG: In 2014 we won the World Championship. We’re right up there with the rest of the world. Right now the atmosphere is positive, the energy is high, and we’re playing well. I can’t wait for the games to get started. I think it’s going to be a great tournament!
PN: What is the athlete’s village like?
EG: The athlete’s village is everything you dream about. It’s difficult to describe, but the atmosphere is electric and I am really proud to be Canadian. Other countries really like us and look up to how we operate. There’s entertainment everywhere and the food is endless. Including McDonalds, it’s all free! It’s an artificial world, but the best world. I feel very privileged to be here.
PN: What’s the practice routine like as you wait for the games to get going?
EG: Right now we’re in a taper phase. The intensity is high and the duration is short. In terms of our practice plan, we’re working on the little things more and starting to scout the other teams. It’s not much different compared to other big tournaments.
PN: How nervous, excited or confident are you heading into the events?
EG: I’m definitely excited! Coming into this tournament, I met with my sport psychologist and we talked a lot about the tournament. Obviously there’s a little bit of nerves, but a championship is just a championship and I’m going to prepare the same. Our team is in a good position to do well.
Canada plays Great Britain in the opening match of wheelchair basketball on Thursday, Sept. 8 at 9:30.