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!
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.
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.