The story starts with silence.
Just a heavy silence carried over the phone lines as James Gemmell, an erstwhile Quesnel resident, tried to find something to say after he was told his dream was coming true.
“I was completely speechless. I don’t think I even responded to them when they told me I made the paralympic team for this year’s team,” Gemmell said.
After eight years of training with his eyes set on the Paralympics and nearly five months waiting to see if he would survive the whittling of the team from 22 to 17, the call had built up some weight.
It was in September when Gemmell went to Toronto for his second effort at making the Paralympic team –he tried in 2010 but was not chosen. He made the cut there, but so did 21 others and only 17 were destined to be on the final roster. So, over the five months, the roster has been whittled down, with each cut making Gemmell nervous.
“It’s been a nerve-racking season. When you’re kind of sitting on the bubble and you never know if the next phone call you receive is going to be telling you your done with the team for the year, so it’s a nerve-racking situation.”
The last time he tried out, he got that call, so he new what it was like. But with time playing internationally in Korea and Sochi, Gemmell has picked up his game enough to make it.
After months on the edge, Gemmell’s now trying to calm down and ignore the build up in favour of focusing on his game and what he should do.
“I’m imagining it’s going to be an unreal experience. I’m trying not to think too much about the whole Olympic Village atmosphere and focus on the simple things about the game and just playing hockey and that’s what I need to focus on,” he said.
That focus on doing what he is able to and trying to ignore the rest is obvious throughout Gemmell’s plans.
“I just want to go there and if I get to play, I get to play and if I don’t then support my team,” Gemmell said.
And at the end of it all, his focus is pinned on that shiny Midas metal at the end.
There are a few potential bumps along the road, though, as the perennial rivals the U.S. National team is sitting close behind them in the international rankings and the hometown, Russian team is ranked third, but Gemmell knows everyone on the Canadian team is working as hard as they can to make the maple leaf proud.
“We don’t want to go there and place second. Right now we’re ranked number one and we’d like to stay that way. There’s a lot of work for each of us if we want to stay that way though,” he said.
So, with his eyes focused firmly on his play and the prize at the end, Gemmell’s hard at work training in his new home of Delta, B.C.
“I’m on the ice down here a minimum of four days a week and off ice training every day of the week to try to push to be the best player I can be,” he said.
Indeed, it was the training that brought him to Delta B.C., where he could find other sledge hockey players to train with and play with, which was not the case here in Quesnel.
“It was always just me on the ice in Quesnel,” Gemmell said.
Now, though, he has the Canadian Team to train with once again. He’ll travel to Calgary this weekend for a week long training camp, one of two before the team heads to Sochi in late February to train for the early March games.