Field Hockey Canada > Johnston siblings set to share Pan Am Games experience in Toronto

On a midsummers day in Vancouver, if you were to walk into the Johnston residence, chances are you would hear about one thing.

“We get home and all we want to talk about is field hockey,” says Shanlee Johnston, a member of the Canadian Women’s National Team.

It’s been this way since Shanlee, 25, and her brother Gordon, 22, took up the sport when they were kids. But the focus on field hockey has intensified since they both became part of the National Program.

And now, it has reached its peak. 

Shanlee and Gordon will both be participating in the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto beginning July 10. It is the first time the siblings will be competing in a major, multisport event together, let alone on home soil.

“It’s really exciting,” she adds. “We have our whole family – my parents and my sister – coming out to watch.”

It’s a rare opportunity and one the Johnstons know can be illusive.

In 2014, with the Commonwealth Games – another major event, which both the men’s and women’s teams were attending – just around the corner, Shanlee was rehabbing a knee injury, desperately trying to crack the squad and head to Glasgow with her brother

“Obviously Shan went through a lot with her knee injury last year,” says Gordie, who has played in 67 senior international matches for Canada. “She never really wavered from her goal. She always knew that despite the fact that it would be a long and challenging road, she always pushed.” 

Unfortunately, she wasn’t able to get back to peak form in time. But despite the disappointment of not making the Commonwealth Games team and sharing the experience with her brother, there was a silver lining.

“I felt like I was able to connect with her and figure out where she’s at and if she ever needed picking up or pushing through the hard points or difficult times through her rehab,” he says. “I was able to sometimes talk to her and remind her of that goal.”

While in many brother-sister environments, sibling rivalry is inevitable. But in the case of the Johnstons, it is admiration and respect that rules the relationship. And it continues to help the relationship grow.

“My brother has been a bit of an inspiration because he’s always had something to fight back from,” she says. “He’s always pushed me too. It’s not like ‘Oh, it’s okay, you’re injured,’ it’s like “No, you’ve got to get back into it.’”

Which is exactly what Shanlee did, working her way back on to training tour rosters and eventually being named to the Pan American Games team, where she will compete in her first multi-sport event.

I definitely pull motivation from her, seeing her work hard and I hope maybe she does the same,” says Gordie. “As soon as both team were named, we had big smiles on our face because it was the first major games we’re going to together.”

And while they will likely keep to themselves and focus on competition throughout their time in Toronto, it will be when they’re back home in Vancouver after the Games, in one on their many conversations about field hockey that Shanlee and Gordon will be able to reflect on how special the experience really was.