2019 World Jr. Championships set for Feb. 15-17 in Italy
By Ryan Ohashi
The life of a young athlete is rarely a simple one and is full of give and take. For every early morning practice, there is an early bedtime. For every fastest performance on ice, there are hours spent in the weight room. For every road trip, like say a spot on the Canadian World Junior Championship team, there is keeping up with everyday life like your classes.
“Yeah I have a mid-term I have to do today before I leave.” says Gabrielle Sanson, an Oval program skater and 2nd year Arts student at UCalgary, who is set to represent Canada for the second time at the 2019 World Jr. Championships in Baselga di Piné, Italy. The 18 year old native of Moose Jaw has seen plenty of ups and downs in her career, its doubtful the pressure for a mid-term will trip her up.
Sanson represented Saskatchewan at the 2015 Canada Winter Games in Prince George, BC and came home with a silver medal as a 15 year old. Her performance on the Canada Games stage was a key confidence boost as she would go on to qualify her first World Junior Championships the following year in Changchun, China. A surprise to some, as Sanson wasn’t expected to qualify as a 16 year old.
“It was an amazing experience for me, I was on the younger side even going to Canada Winter Games and that was a big step for me” said Sanson “The experience I gained helped me towards World Juniors that year, it prepared me and gave me that confidence I needed.”
Sanson’s demeanor fits what you would expect of a student athlete, a dedication to routine matched by her youthful energy. One can see the appreciation she has for her opportunities earned, an appreciation built through perseverance.
It’s been a whirlwind past few seasons for the 18 year old, a move to Calgary, the rigors of university life, battles through injuries and the ups and downs of the seasons continue to add to her resolve.
Following what was her 16 year old season, Sanson was diagnosed with a heart condition which sidelined her for several months. After a full recovery, fate then dealt her another blow as she was forced to rehab a hip issue.
“Last year, I had a pericarditis for like 4 months, which was attacking the wall of my heart” says Sanson of the condition which is, as described, an inflammation of the lining surrounding the heart “I couldn’t do anything about it, I just had to rest”
“And then the end of last season, it turned out my SI joint was out and I didn’t really notice.” says Sanson “My hips were really sore all the time and I just thought it was tight hip flexors – But during the summer I just kind of realized it wasn’t and it’s just been the fight to keep it back in which has been a tough uphill battle.”
Sanson has skated well this season, under the tutelage of Olympic Oval program coach Jeff Kitura, earning her second trip to World Juniors based on her results from the 2019 Canadian Junior Long Track Championships that took place in Calgary at the beginning of January. She is looking forward to the opportunity afforded to her through hard work and rehabilitation.
“It’s been a really long time for me” said Sanson “I haven’t had that chance to skate healthy until this year and now I am just getting back on track and it’s been good.”
Sanson credits Olympic Oval physio Shelby Wogsberg and Dr. Richard Robinson of the Calgary Sports Health & Performance with helping her to get back on track.
“I was going to physio and chiro three times a week all summer and still go after competitions, it still gets out sometimes but we are working at it” said Sanson of her rehabilitation.
Making her return to the World Juniors, this time as an 18 year old, should prove to be another step forward for the aspiring young skater. On the women’s side of the Canadian team Sanson will be joined by Alexa Scott (Clandeboye, MB), Gabrielle Jelonek (Saint-Antoine-de-Tilly, QC), and Ophélie Juneau (Ottawa, ON). With both Scott and Jelonek skating their second consecutive World Juniors.
“Last time I went I was one of the youngest and still had so much to learn” said Sanson “Now it’s weird to go back as one of the older skaters and actually to share that experience with everyone else. Just going to Europe and the atmosphere and how much they love speed skating over there, it’ll be awesome to have all the fans - just a different experience on a world stage.”
Leading the Canadian team overseas are coaches Todd McClements, an Olympic Oval program coach and Mike Ireland, along with physiotherapist Mark Jesney.
“I had Todd as coach the first year [in China] so we are kind of familiar – it’ll be good. It’s always a huge honour to wear the maple leaf, getting the gear is really cool, it’s made it so real” says Sanson adding with a laugh “I haven’t even worn the suit yet - I am like too scared to like rip it or fall and do something to it.”
The 2019 ISU World Junior Championship is set for February 15-17, 2019 in Baselga di Pine, Italy.