One of the youngest in her high school, and a curious grade 9 student at Mayfield Secondary School, Lizzie Gibson was about to try out for her school's lacrosse team when one of her friends suggested that she change course and compete for a spot on the rugby squad.
Gibson didn't know much about rugby, but she is clearly an eternal optimist, bright, eager to adapt and an intellectual individual who knew about seizing an opportunity and making the best of it. It also turned out to be a move, Gibson recalls, that set her on course to achieving, four years later, something special.
I look at that medal and think of the inspiration I get from going out and doing my best in everything I do.
Gibson is one of just 12 women across the country chosen by Rugby Canada, in cooperation with the Canadian Olympic Committee, to the 7's squad that will compete in the six-country Youth Olympic Games in Argentina.
In her graduating year at Mayfield, Gibson is focussed on what lies ahead. For now, it is wearing the Canadian colors from October 13 to 15 in Buenos Aires and competing against Japan, France, New Zealand, Tunisia and Columbia in the round-robin stages.
"I am absolutely thrilled to be representing my country, and truly see how determination, hard work and sticking with what you believe in can really work out," said Gibson. "There's a lot more pressure now, representing Canada on the world stage, and I will do so with pride and to the best of my ability."
Gibson, who trains every day and often four hours each time, commutes from her home in Mississauga to the Scarborough Pan Am Centre. Finding out about her selection to Canada's elite squad came at the end of the summer.
"I was scooping ice cream, a summer job, and kept hearing my cell phone buzzing," she said. "It turned out to be my mother who shared the great news. For a split second, I was just stunned. Then, I realized that everything I was taught, what I learned, the risk-taking, and just telling myself that 'I can do it' contributed to this success."
I am absolutely thrilled to be representing my country, and truly see how determination, hard work and sticking with what you believe in can really work out.
It has been quite the year for Gibson, who was on the Canadian squad that beat Bermuda, Mexico, and in the gold medal game defeated the United States to win the North American and Caribbean Rugby Association qualifying round in Las Vegas last February and March. But Gibson didn't know, until the final roster was announced, that she would be among the dozen athletes chosen for Argentina.
"I am very fortunate, but I also realize that things like this don't happen unless you make an effort, draw on the experience and advice of others – including my family," says Gibson. "There are times of frustration and fatigue, but you take a deep breath, regain your composure and get right back at it."
Last Spring, Gibson would be a key factor in Mayfield winning a third Region of Peel Secondary School Athletic Association rugby championship. The trip to the winner's podium was not over as Gibson was on the provincial squad that went undefeated at the Ontario Summer Games in London, returning home with a gold medal.
"(The medal) is hanging on my room wall," said Gibson, who is on the executive of the Mayfield Athletic Association, volunteers for several charitable projects, continues her academic excellence and wants to pursue a career in criminal law.
"I look at that medal and think of the inspiration I get from going out and doing my best in everything I do."
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