23-year-old Calgarian going for gold in men’s long-track speed skating in Sochi
Gilmore Junio — the son of Filipino immigrants — embraced Canada’s favourite past time at a very early age. A born and raised Calgarian, Junio enjoyed playing hockey and even had dreams of qualifying for the NHL one day.
However, his father — Gino Junio — suggested a different path.
“When I was 13, it kind of became apparent to my dad I wouldn’t possess the size (he is 5-8 today) and strength to make it to the highest level,” Gilmore Junio said in an interview via email.
Junio said that his father may have been concerned about his saftey when suggesting he try speed skating.
“I attended a talent identification camp a few weeks later, met up with a coach that thought I had potential and went from there,” said Junio.
A young, rising short-track star
After that camp, Junio was on his way to becoming a competitive short-track speed skater. He was named to Alberta’s short-track ‘A’ team in 2005 at the age of 15. In the same year, he qualified for his very first Canadian Age-Class Short Track Championships and finished fourth overall.
More success followed in 2007, when he earned the invitation to represent Alberta at the Canada Winter Games in Whitehorse. He managed to finish in fourth place in both the men’s 3,000-metre and 500-metre event.
By the end of the 2008-09 season, Junio was a short-speed skater that was ranked 17th in Canada. His future was looking very bright.
The 2009-10 campaign was poised to be a memorable last season in junior for Junio. He was considered to be a favourite to represent Canada at the Short-Track World Junior Championships in Taipei, Taiwan.
However, while training in Sherbrooke, Que., just two weeks before the Canadian Junior Championships, Junio crashed into the boards head first and fractured two of his vertebrae.
“When I had that injury, I did have some thoughts of quitting,” Junio told the Calgary Journal on Jan. 22. “But at the moment I said, ‘I’m not going to quit, I’m going to pursue my goal of representing Canada.’ It kind of cemented the fact that I did want to be a speed skater.
“It [the injury] almost brought me to another level. I almost took for granted my skating before. Now I know what it means to me to skate and be a speed skater. It’s almost a blessing in disguise.”
Photo by Allison Drinnan
The road to Sochi
After recovering from the injury, Junio was determined to represent Canada in the very same 2009-10 season. As a result, Junio decided to switch to long-track speed skating where the chances of injury are lower. This is due to the oval being roomier and the turns not as tight.
He trained hard and was able to earn the honour to represent Canada at the 2010 Long Track World Junior Championships. He managed to place fourth in the 500-metre and seventh in the 1,000-metre event.
He made the transition to the senior level to start the 2010-11 season and he has been rapidly climbing in the international rankings ever since. After finishing 27th in the World Cup rankings at the end of his first season, he has climbed up the standings to earn the No.8 spot on the World Cup ranking in men’s 500-metre long-track speed skating.
He has made this ascent in the rankings while attending the University of Calgary as a kinesiology student.
His first-place finish in a World Cup race at Salt Lake City this past November confirms he will be a contender for a medal in the 500-metre event.
He considers it his greatest competitive accomplishment to date.
He was officially named as one of the 17 long-track speed skaters to represent Canada at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games on Jan. 22.
Junio stated he would aim to earn a medal in Sochi in the 500-metre event, and push himself to do his very best.
Everything about taking part in the Olympics excites Junio, he said, but he is anticipating one moment in particular.
“The one moment that I think will make it feel real will be walking into the opening ceremonies from the tunnel and seeing all the people looking at me, wearing the maple leaf and representing Canada,” he said.
He will compete in the 500-metre race starting on Friday Feb.10 at 6 a.m., MST.
For a recap of some of the best moments from the Sochi Winter Games visit the Calgary Journal’s Storify page.