Erica Gavel – Athlete

One of Prince Albert’s elite female athletes, Erica Gavel has gone on to recognition worldwide for her incredible dedication to her sport of basketball through severe adversity. She turned what looked like a career ending injury into an opportunity to join a different sport and excel.

Gavel was dominant in softball, volleyball and basketball while growing up in Prince Albert. As a member of the Allcann Development Softball Association (ADFO) she was a key contributor to strong Aces teams including the Squirt Provincial champions in 2003, Pee Wee Provincial silver and Western Canadian bronze medal winners in 2005 and Bantam Provincial gold medalists in 2007. She also was on Team Saskatchewan in softball in the 2007 Western Canada Summer Games.

As a member of the Prince Albert Toppers Volleyball teams, Gavel was a Provincial Silver Medalist in U15 in 2007 and in U17 in both 2008 and 2009.

High School sports brought much more notoriety for Gavel. As a member of the Carlton Comprehensive High School Crusaders, Gavel was captain of both volleyball and basketball teams. In volleyball, the Crusaders won Provincial bronze medals in 2007 and 2009 sandwiched between a fourth place finish in 2008. Basketball was the sport where Gavel would turn the most heads. She joined the Crusader senior team in her Grade 10 year of 2006 when they won Provincial Bronze. A Gavel-Captained Crusader team would then win Silver in 2008 and Bronze in 2009. Gavel was named Carlton’s top female athlete in both 2008 and 2009 and named Prince Albert’s Athlete of the Year in 2010.

Gavel was highly recruited by University basketball programs on both sides of the border, but chose to stay close to home and joined the University of Saskatchewan Huskies under Head Coach Lisa Thomadis winning a CandaWest championship and bronze and silver medals at the USport National Championships. This is where a promising story took a terrible turn. Gavel suffered three serious injuries to the same knee. The third one left the knee with no cartilage between her tibia and femur prompting doctors to tell her she would never play competitive sports again.

Gavel would take this as a challenge and remembered a school mate playing wheelchair basketball, so she would give it a try. And like most natural athletes Gavel excelled at wheelchair basketball as well. In 2014 she led Team Saskatchewan to their first ever Canadian Junior National Championship.

She was recruited to the University of Alabama Crimson Tide on a five-year scholarship for wheelchair basketball. Her first year with the Crimson Tide saw Gavel named the most improved player leading them to a second place finish in the National Intercollegiate Championships. In 2015 she was named to her first national team, helping them to a silver medal at the Parapan Am Games in Toronto. Then in 2016 Gavel was a member of the National team that placed 5th at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Paralympic Summer Games. Then the National team would win Gold at the America’s Cup in 2017, finish 5th at the World Championships in 2018 and win Gold once again at the Parapan AM Games in Lima, Peru in 2019.

Gavel has parlayed this amazing career into giving back to the game and motivating thousands of young wheelchair athletes worldwide. She has volunteered for many significant world based organizations including the Sport Sciences Research and Working group for the International Paralympic Committee out of Bonn, Germany; Chair of the Athlete Commission for the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation, also out of Germany; Vice-chair of the Athlete Commission of the Canadian Paralympic Association in Ottawa and Director of the Ontario Basketball Association in Toronto.

She also has completed a number of research papers for sport including: “Mitigating Fatigue and improving performance in athletes with spinal cord injuries” and “The effects of menthol mouth rinse during 30 km time trial performance in female athletes”.

Gavel also won two Own the Podium Fellowships, been nominated for the YWCA Woman of Distinction in Saskatoon, and was recently named as one of Canada’s Top 23 Most Influential Females in Sport.

Other 2023 inductees