Chanda Gunn is the 5'7" goal tender for the U.S. Olympic hockey team. She and her teammates will work to beat Canada during the 2006 Winter Olympics this February in Turin, Italy.
Chanda in particular has captured a lot of media attention. She doesn't look like your typical hockey goalie. She's shy and quiet and a little on the small size for a goaltender. Hand her a stick and put the pads on her, though, and she turns into a puck-stopping machine on ice, winning an athletic scholarship and making the cut last December to the Olympic team. Even that, however, is an accomplishment shared with 19 other teammates.
Disability and Car Free What's extraordinary about Chanda is that she was diagnosed with epilepsy at age 9 after suffering a grand mal seizure. She lost her scholarship to Wisconsin after suffering debilitating seizures in college. She had to work her way back into NCAA hockey, proving her value to coaches who had their doubts about the performance of a player with a seizure disorder.
Because of her neurological disorder, this 26-year-old athlete received a drivers license only a few months ago. Chanda was kind enough to take time from her schedule to speak with me about her transportational bicycling. "While I am at home I ride for fun, to the beach," says this native of Huntington Beach, CA. "In college I rode for transportation and actually wanted to join the cycling club, but hockey always sort of got in the way."
"I spend a lot of time using my bike as my independence, riding 4 or 5 miles to the rink, to the gym, and to the track and to work. I spent a lot of time on that bike."
"I used to get up at 4 am, bike 5 miles to the track, do a track workout, bike over to the rink, skate for 90 minutes, bike to the gym, workout for 3 hours, bike home for lunch, bike back to the rink to give lessons and work, and bike back home again at night. I think for a while I tried to bike to taekwondo a couple nights a week, but my legs just couldn't take it: the taekwondo or the extra bike ride!"
Chanda had her share of southern California traffic, of course. "There is a sign by the rink that says PLEASE SHARE THE ROAD. I used to get so mad when there was no bike line and cars would NOT share the road."
Advice for parents Chanda Gunn encourages parents to not see their children's disabilities as a hindrance. She tells me, "My advise is do as much as you can, especially parents of children with epilepsy. The more you are able to do at a young age, playing sports, doing after school activities and going to school. Even if they have to wear a helmet, the more they do the more likely they are to grow up independent and not view their disorder as a handicap or hardship. Doing things for yourself, especially sports, is empowering."
She encourages others with disabling disorders to try bike riding for some measure of independence. "When you are not able to do something, like drive, riding a bike provides a wicked amount of independence. Instead of feeling stuck and dependent on others, you can now get a reasonable distance by yourself. When I figured that out a couple years ago at home, it did a lot for me!"
Future plans Women's ice hockey is still a developing sport, and the Olympics are the pinnacle of what a woman can achieve in ice hockey. What are Chanda's plans after the Olympics? "After the Olympics I really want to invest in a road bike and get into biking," she says. Perhaps in the next couple of years we'll see this hard-working athlete in U.S. women's pro cycling.