Olympic Speed Skater Gilmore Junio on Competition Day Rituals and His Earliest Travel Memory

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Junio shares why he’s proud to represent Canada, how he shakes off competition day nerves and where he loves to train most.

The flame is lit, the skies are being cleared – literally, by the China Meteorological Association Weather Modification Centre – and athletes from around the world are arriving for the Beijing 2022 Winter Games. As millions of Canadians gear up for a few nail‑biting weeks of watching our homegrown champions battle it out for medals, we caught up with speed skater Gilmore Junio, who captured our hearts in Sochi when he stepped aside and let teammate Denny Morrison take his place in the men’s 1,000 metre race. (Morrison fell in the qualifying trial but went on to win a silver medal thanks to Junio’s sportsmanship.) Junio shares why he loves representing Canada, how he shakes off competition day nerves and where he loves to train most. And, because so much of the Olympic Games is about giving back, Gilmore and four Team Canada teammates – Marie‑Philip Poulin, Mikaël Kingsbury, Cynthia Appiah and Cassie Sharpe – inspire us with their passion for their favourite charities.

enRoute What’s your earliest travel memory?

Gilmore Junio Our first family trip to the Philippines – I was six years old, and I'd never been on a plane before, I remember learning how to pop my ears when we climbed to a higher altitude. I grew up in Calgary, so when we arrived in Manila, I walked out of the airport and was so shocked by the heat and humidity that I passed out!

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eR Where’s your favourite place in the world to train?

GJ Norway. I actually lived there for a year and fell in love with the place. The landscape is beautiful and the people are incredibly kind (and are similar to Canadians in many ways). Just be prepared to pay a pretty penny if you want to grab a beer.

eR What language would you most like to learn?

GJ Tagalog, the Filipino language. Unfortunately, I never picked it up from my parents, but looking back I wish I’d put in a bit more effort. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve grown to appreciate my heritage and where I come from – learning Tagalog is a piece of that. 

Related: Hall of Famer Hayley Wickenheiser on Her Second Act

eR What's your game‑day ritual?

GJ I’ve listened to Fall Out Boy’s From Under the Cork Tree album every race day for the past 12 years as I travel from the hotel to the rink. Whether the trip is a 10‑minute bike ride or an hour bus ride, I’ll always start the album from track two and let it run.

eR Who is your all‑time favourite athlete?

GJ Jarome Iginla. Growing up in Calgary, I thought that Iggy was the ice hockey king – he could score, pass, hit and fight. Anything the team needed, Iggy could do it all. Whether they were winning or losing, he always gave his best to the team and the community, and that’s something I admire. On top of that, the representation of a Black hockey player who looked different – just like me – was huge. It made me believe that I could achieve something more.

eR What makes Canada beautiful to you?

GJ Easy! It’s the people. From coast to coast, you will find people who know the value of community and helping their neighbours and strangers. We’re humble, we’re kind, we’re inclusive and down‑to‑earth and it’s why I consider myself so lucky to have represented Canada over the past 12 years.

Related: Penny Oleksiak on Shark Week, Travel Rituals and Gearing up for Tokyo

February 1, 2022
Team Canada 2022 olympics
   Photo: Canadian Press and Getty Images

5 of Team Canada’s Top Athletes on How They Plan to Give Back  

enRoute Air Canada is making a $2,500 donation on your behalf to a charity of your choice. Which charity did you choose and why?

Cynthia Appiah (bobsleigh) Afri‑Can FoodBasket. I know first‑hand how hard it is to have access to fresh produce [Appiah, the daughter of Ghanaian immigrants, grew up in Toronto Community Housing]. Providing support to this organization helps marginalized communities. It’s been very hard through the pandemic for many people, so I hope this helps my community.

Marie‑Philip Poulin (ice hockey) Moisson Beauce. It’s an organization that collects and re‑distributes surplus food and personal care products to people in need in my region of Chaudière‑Appalaches, Quebec.

Cassie Sharpe (halfpipe) Whistler Animals Galore (WAG) – they play a huge part in rescuing and rehoming dogs and cats on the Sea‑to‑Sky corridor and making sure they find the perfect match for animals and owners!

Mikaël Kingsbury (moguls) The Breakfast Club of Canada. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day and it’s hard to fathom that thousands of children across Canada don’t get the opportunity eat breakfast at home each day. It's a cause that is so dear to my heart. The donation will help more children begin their day at school on a full stomach with the energy they need to learn and play.

Gilmore Junio (speed skating) Classroom Champions. I’ve been volunteering with them for three years now and it’s an amazing program. Athletes mentor students on teamwork, setting goals and perseverance. To see the look on their faces when athletes pop in for live chats is one of the best feelings and it’s something I hope I can be a part of for a long time.  

team Canada Olympic skiing
   Photo: Vytautas Dranginis, unsplash