Big win sends KPE’s Erica Gavel to the 2020 Paralympics

KPE's Erica Gavel is part of Team Canada's wheelchair basketball team competing at the upcoming Olympic Games in Tokyo. (photo provided by Erica Gavel)

The stakes were high at the recent Parapan Am women’s wheelchair basketball tournament in Peru, but the unflappable Team Canada fought hard and nabbed the gold medal. 

KPE’s own Erica Gavel, a member of Team Canada, will never, ever forget that moment.

“Hands down it was the most amazing experience of my entire life,” she said. “I’m still speechless.” 

During the game, Team USA and Team Canada tied up the score a total of 10 times and experienced six lead changes before Canada won 67-64. The win means that Erica and the team will be heading to the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo, Japan, along with Team USA. 

It was an incredible feat but one that Erica insists wouldn’t have been possible without the support she had from everyone at U of T. Throughout the year, Erica was balancing the intense Team Canada training and game schedules with her Masters in Exercise Science at KPE. 

“My schedule doesn’t have a lot of flexibility,” she said. “I’m lucky that everyone at U of T has been so accommodating, especially my supervisor, Professor Scott Thomas, my committee members, Professor Ira Jacobs and Assistant Professor Heather Logan-Sprenger, and my basketball coaches. There would have been no way I could have balanced it all without their understanding. I can’t even describe how grateful I am for them.” 

Indeed, Erica’s schedule was so hectic that she recalls submitting every major checkpoint for her Masters thesis from a different country or continent. 

“The first checkpoint was France, then Japan, then another one from Germany, then I recently submitted everything from Peru,” she said with a laugh.

The recent victory was especially meaningful for Erica, who once thought she would never play again after a devastating knee injury ended her standup basketball career. Four years later, she’s preparing to head to the Paralympics. 

“I wouldn’t have believed it if you told me,” she said. “It’s been the most incredible journey,” she said.

Now that she’s completed her Masters degree and has a gold medal under her belt, Erica will be focusing on starting her PhD at Ontario Tech University with Logan-Sprenger and begin training for the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Summer Games.