The path wasn’t always easy throughout her athletic career, but Erica Gavel overcame the adversity from what could have been a career ending injury and transitioned to becoming a member of Team Canada.
Gavel will be inducted into the Prince Albert Sports Hall of Fame in the athlete category at the Prince Albert Sports Hall of Fame banquet this Saturday at the Ches Leach lounge.
“I think to be inducted is a tremendous honor and privilege.” Gavel says. “If you look and you walk through the Hall of Fame and you see the quality of people on the wall, it’s a very humbling experience. To be in in the Hall of Fame with both Dallas Emmerson and Ken Morrison, two people who have played a significant role in my athletic career. It’s just a tremendous honor.”
Growing up in Prince Albert, Gavel was a three-sport athlete in softball, basketball and volleyball.
In her softball career, Gavel was a member of the Aallcann Development Fastpitch Organization (ADFO). She had many accomplishments on the diamond including being a Squirt provincial champion in 2003, a Pee Wee provincial silver and Western Canadian bronze medalist in 2005, a bantam provincial gold medalist in 2007. She also participated with Team Saskatchewan at the 2007 Western Canada Summer Games.
In volleyball, she captured a trio of provincial silver medalists with the Prince Albert Toppers volley program in 2007-2009. With the Carlton Crusaders, Gavel was a captain of both the volleyball and basketball teams. Carlton won the provincial bronze medal in 2007 and 2009.
Gavel was a star for the Crusaders when she first stepped on the court for Carlton in her grade 10 year of 2006 and helped the team win a provincial bronze medal. The Crusaders would capture a silver medal in 2008 and a bronze in 2009 under Gavel’s captaincy. She was also named the Crusader top female athlete in 2008 and 2009. She received honors for Prince Albert’s Athlete of the Year in 2010.
After high school, Gavel pursued her passion for basketball to play for the University of Saskatchewan Huskies. Things didn’t quite go to plan as Gavel would suffer three serious injuries to the same knee that would leave no cartilage between her tibia and femurs. Doctors recommended that she never play competitive sports again.
After remembering a schoolmate who played wheelchair basketball, Gavel would transition to the sport and find success.
After hearing that news from doctors about her injury, Gavel says it took a lot of courage and soul searching before she felt comfortable training full time.
“I think one of the biggest challenges was being brave enough to try again. I was definitely in a situation where I had to commit 110%. Otherwise, I didn’t have a chance. For me to commit to that 110%, it really challenged me to ask myself what do I really want and why am I doing this?
“And I think as soon as I was comfortable enough to say to myself, I’m doing this because I want to go to the Paralympic Games. That was definitely the turning point when it came to intention with my training and just lifestyle. I think just being brave enough to try again after suffering a career-ending injury was very challenging.”
Wheelchair basketball would take Gavel south of the border as she was recruited to the University of Alabama Crimson Tide on a five-year scholarship. Her first year with the Tide saw Gavel named the most improved player on route to an Alabama second place finish at the National Intercollegiate Championships.
Gavel would become a fixture on the Canadian wheelchair basketball national team.
“When I found out I made the team, I cried for 3 hours. I was so happy. But then to go to the Paralympics and walk into the stadium for the first time in an arena that holds 16,000 people with the understanding that the arena will be filled. I think for me that was the ‘holy crap I’m actually here’ moment. But I think every tournament brought its own cool, unique experience.”
In 2015, she helped Canada capture a silver medal at the Parapan Am Games in Toronto. In 2016, Gavel helped Canada secure Paralympic silver in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. Canada would take home gold at the 2017 America’s Cup, finish 5th at the 2018 World Championships and win gold at the Parapan Am Games in Lima, Peru in 2019.
A big influence on her career was her father Glen Gavel, who was a longtime basketball official in Prince Albert who recently passed away.
Erica says her late father helped her become the athlete and the person she is today.
“I was at his hip in every gym in Saskatchewan. I’m just so grateful that we had so much time together and he really helped me get to where I am.”
The 31st Induction Banquet of the Prince Albert Sports Hall of Fame is Saturday, May 6 starting at 6 p.m. at the Ches Leach Lounge