September 10, 2019 6:53 pm
Updated: September 11, 2019 8:16 am

Saskatchewan basketball player shifts focus to 2020 Tokyo Paralympics

Prince Albert’s Erica Gavel helped Canada defend their goal medal in wheelchair basketball at the 2019 Parapan Am Games in Lima, Peru last month.

Provided / Canadian Paralympic Committee

Prince Albert’s Erica Gavel has her sights set on the Paralympics, after a strong showing at the 2019 Parapan Am Games in Lima, Peru, last month.

Gavel, 28, helped Canada defend their gold medal in wheelchair basketball with a win 67-64 win over the United States on Aug. 30.

Their successful showing secured them a spot at the 2020 Tokyo Summer Paralympics.

“I still am at a loss for words. It was just one of the most incredible experiences of my entire life,” Gavel said.

READ MORE: ‘A cherry on top’: Moose Jaw, Sask. swimmer earns four medals at Parapan Am Games

“You grow up with the dream of one day representing Team Canada. To do that and win a gold medal against the Americans is just incredible.”

Team Canada beat the United States to win gold at the 20192019 Parapan Am Games in Lima, Peru.

Provided / Canadian Paralympic Committee

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Gavel was on the Canadian squad during the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, where the team finished fifth.

Her expectations heading into Toyko are higher, but she knows success will only come if everyone puts the work in.

“I think we underachieved in Rio. We didn’t reach our goals, so hopefully come Tokyo we can get on the podium,” Gavel said.

“If we continue to train the way we are and improve in a couple of areas of our overall, daily and yearly training plan, I’m very confident that we can end up on the podium in Tokyo.”

READ MORE: Canada finishes second in a Parapan Am Games about more than medals

Gavel credits much of her success to the people around her, including her former coaches at the University of Saskatchewan, Lisa Thomaidis and Jac Lavallee, along with Sarah Crooks, who used to play basketball for the national team.

She said her strength and conditioning coach Bruce Craven also played a significant role in where she is today.

“I’ve been working with those people since my stand-up days, so yeah, I live in Toronto, but I’m still well-supported by my Saskatchewan people,” Gavel said.

“At the end of the day, those are the people who inspired me to pursue the national team.”

READ MORE: Paracyclist Carla Shibley hopes to inspire other by overcoming hurdles

On top of competing in wheelchair basketball, Gavel is working on her PhD in Paralympic Sports Science at Ontario Tech University, supervised by former athlete Dr. Heather Logan-Sprenger.

Understanding how tough it is to juggle sports and education, Gavel said Logan-Sprenger has helped her find that balance.

“She’s just been the most amazing mentor, role model [and] friend that I could ever ask for,” Gavel said.

Gavel has the entire month of September off to relax before she goes back to training anywhere from 25 and 30 hours a week.

The 2020 Summer Paralympics takes place from Aug. 25 – Sept. 6.

WATCH: Canadian makes history in wheelchair tennis at Peru’s Parapan Am Games

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