Team Canada in Tokyo – Jennifer Gilbert – Softball
What do you do when a lifelong dream is taken from you?
It was the heartbreaking question that softball player Jenn Gilbert faced in 2005, when the International Olympic Committee voted to remove her sport from the Olympic program starting in 2012.
“For me personally, I didn’t know what the dream was going to be,” Gilbert said. “The carpet was ripped right under me.”
Softball had been part of the Olympics since its debut in Atlanta in 1996, but after the Beijing Games in 2008 that run would come to an end, leaving Gilbert gutted and unsure of where to go next.
Gilbert had sacrificed a lot in his career, including much of his social life growing up in pursuit of his Olympic goal, from the age of eight.
“It was on a road trip where I turned to my mom and said, ‘I want to play for Canada at the Olympics someday,’ Gilbert recalls. “My mother was so surprised that an eight year old could say something so profound!
With the chance to represent his country on the biggest stage of all at least on hiatus, Gilbert was not discouraged. She continued to participate in the sport throughout her exercise science studies at Ball State University, where she collected almost countless records.
She ended her college career in 2014 as the league record holder in RBIs, Races and Doubles, in addition to being the all-time leader among Canadian-born players in the circuits with 75.
Then, two years later, the IOC announced that softball was back for the 2020 Tokyo Games, joined by the early sports of karate, skateboarding, surfing and sport climbing.
“When they put it back in 2016, it was like ‘Yeah, let’s go.’ That’s what I’ve been waiting for all this time. It’s so awesome that they put it back. what I did in softball led to this moment, ”said Gilbert.
Gilbert was born in Saskatoon, but moved to Texas at the age of three with his family due to his father’s job.
“My dad was in animal genetics, so he actually got a job at the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool, and I was born in Saskatoon, at St. Paul’s Hospital,” Gilbert said.
“I keep in touch with the Canadian Olympic Center in Saskatchewan, they send me gift baskets every year and give me a lot of support and I’m very grateful for that,” said Gilbert.
Naturally, things were never going to be straightforward for Gilbert to achieve his goal, and despite a Pan American Games silver medal in 2019 with an average of 0.429 and an Olympic qualification achieved weeks later, COVID-19 would present the next one. obstacle.
“COVID has definitely been a challenge that we didn’t see coming,” Gilbert said of the pandemic. “We were in Halifax back when COVID was just a rumor and we didn’t know what the impact was. Fortunately, we had already planned to take a break on March 15, 2020, so we were all home.
“We’ve had a lot of Zoom meetings online, and luckily I live on a farm in Texas so I was able to practice on my own, I ordered a lot of equipment from Amazon! “
Gilbert puts a lot of pressure on himself and works around Vince Lombardi’s quote “Perfection is not achievable, but if we pursue perfection, we can achieve excellence.”
“You have set the bar so high,” she said. “We’re all human and not perfect, but I can control the way I train, what I train for, and then I have to trust that training.
“We work hard, we manage, we ask ourselves questions. I will say that I don’t think any team at the Olympics is working harder right now, ”said Gilbert.
Now 29 years old and softball not currently on the program for the Paris Games in 2024, Gilbert knows it may be her only move, and she is optimistic about her team’s chances.
“We play to win a gold medal, we say it every day,” she said. “That’s what we’ve been training for and we’ve been training for for three or four years.
“We’re going to do some really good things, you guys are going to see. “
Gilbert and Team Canada bow out at midnight on July 21 against Mexico, the first of five group stage games.
Catch the Team Canada round robin games:
Canada vs Mexico – July 21 – 00:00
Canada vs United States – July 21 – 6:00 p.m.
Canada vs Australia – July 23 – 7:00 p.m.
Canada vs Japan – July 24 – 11:30 p.m.
Canada vs Italy – July 25 – 11:30 p.m.
Listen to the full interview here – https://iono.fm/e/1075458