In light of the recent announcement of the USA Women’s Wheelchair Basketball World Championship Roster, we are featuring Gail Gaing, one of the twelve members of the team. Read about Gail’s incredible sports family and college experience as student athlete at Illinois:
Name: Gail Gaeng
Hometown: Frederick, MD
Current Team (other than USA): University of Illinois
What was your first experience with wheelchair basketball?
GG: I first found out about wheelchair basketball through a psychical therapist who I met with once. She heard that I played sports in my long leg braces and asked if she could give my contact to the coach of the Kennedy Krieger sports program. Later that week, my former coach Gerry Herman called me and asked me if I wanted to try out wheelchair basketball. From the start I loved the sport and was eager to get better.
It is in your blood to compete in collegiate sports – tell us about your family history and athletics.
GG: Every person in my family has played sports at the collegiate level. My father won a National Championship in Lacrosse at Roanoke College. My mother played soccer at Slippery Rock University. My oldest sister Erin played soccer at Elon University and my oldest brother Drew played basketball at Roanoke College. The next two siblings in line, Deke and Paige, also went Roanoke College and played basketball and soccer respectively. My sister Clare played lacrosse Lock Haven University.
How have athletics shaped you as a person?
GG: Sports have really defined my life. I think I pushed myself harder in all aspects of my life than most kids because I wanted to be just as good as my brothers and sisters in sports. I found a work ethic early on in my life because I had to work ten times harder to excel at athletics. The competitive nature of sports gave me that drive to keep going even when I was knocked down a couple of times.
How have some of the other sports you played helped you in your basketball game?
GG: I played so many sports growing up and they all helped me learn how to move my body better. You have to have good hand eye coordination to succeed in wheelchair basketball so I think being a lacrosse goalie in middle and high school helped me improve that.
As a collegiate athlete, what is it like balancing a long season, tough workouts and practices with your school work?
GG: It is definitely a struggle to balance everything. Waking up every morning at 5:45 for practices is probably the hardest part but I know that if I want to be the best that I can be, it’s worth it. Time management is a huge part of not being so overwhelmed with school work.
Tell us a bit about your team at the Illinois and the Illinois Classic that you just competed in.
GG: University of Illinois started the first wheelchair basketball and that history is what makes U of I so great and unique. We have a very committed team here and I love being a part of it. The Illinois Classic was good first tournament for us and showed us what parts of the game that we need to improve on before the end of the season.
How is it to be on Team USA with your college teammate, Megan?
GG: Megan is one of the best teammates I have ever had. It is awesome to share the experience being on Team USA with her. When we have extra workouts to do outside of college basketball, it’s so nice to have her there by my side.
What person in your life inspires you the most? Any role models or mentors?
GG: The people that inspire me the most are my family. My mom and dad never treated me differently than my siblings and did not accept anything than my best effort in everything I did. My brothers and sisters were great role models and were so supportive of me so I knew that I could do anything that I put my mind to.
Any superstitions when you play?
GG: It is kind of an odd thing for wheelchair basketball but I have to stretch my legs before every game. Also because I am so jacked up for most of my games, I stay very calm and don’t talk to many people before games. I try and take a nap as well before my games even if it’s just for 15 minutes.
Pose a question for our next member of Team USA:
GG: What did it feel like to put on the USA jersey for the first time?