North

'He's only 18': Łı́ı́dlı̨ı̨ Kų́ę́ grandmother excited to see her grandson achieve Olympic dream

Liam Gill, a member of Łı́ı́dlı̨ı̨ Kų́ę́ First Nation in N.W.T., learned this week that he'd be competing in the snowboard halfpipe at the Olympics. Within 24 hours, he was boarding a flight to China.

Liam Gill is thankful for the support he has received from Łı́ı́dlı̨ı̨ Kų́ę́ First Nation and the N.W.T.

Rosemary Gill with her grandchildren, Mia and Liam Gill, in this undated photo. "I just hope he enjoys his experience and does well," she said as her grandson heads to his first Olympic Games. (Submitted by Rosemary Gill)

Rosemary Gill of Łı́ı́dlı̨ı̨ Kų́ę́ First Nation in Fort Simpson, N.W.T, said she "couldn't believe it" when she heard her grandson Liam Gill would be heading to the Olympics.

"Because he's only 18, some of his teammates are like twice his age," she told Lawrence Nayally, host of CBC's Trail's End

She said people across the country have reached out to congratulate her on her grandson's accomplishment. 

"We're very excited about this opportunity, I just hope he enjoys his experience and does well." 

Liam Gill, who grew up in Calgary but is also a member of the Łı́ı́dlı̨ı̨ Kų́ę́ First Nation (LKFN), said he felt mixed emotions when he discovered he would be going to the Olympics. 

"I didn't know how to feel," he told Loren McGinnis, host of The Trailbreaker. 

Liam, who was an alternate for the Canadian snowboard team, said he was waiting to see if competitors from other countries were going to back out, which would allow him to compete. But time was running out. 

"I came to a point where I was like 'I guess I'm not going,'" he said. 

Devastated for his teammate

On Jan. 31 Team Canada announced that Liam's teammate, Derek Livingston, was injured during a training run in a way that would prevent him from competing.

"It was pretty devastating to hear," Liam said. 

Liam Gill grew up in Calgary but is a member of the Łı́ı́dlı̨ı̨ Kų́ę́ First Nation in Fort Simpson, N.W.T. He learned this week that he'll be heading to Beijing to compete in Olympic snowboarding. (Canada Snowboard)

Livingston has said he is also "devastated" that he won't be participating in the Games but is excited that Liam gets an opportunity.

Within 24 hours, Liam was boarding a flight to China where he will compete in the snowboard half-pipe.

A thank you to LKFN and the N.W.T.

Liam said he appreciated the love and support he's received from LKFN and the entire N.W.T.

Liam is the only Indigenous member of the team, and he said he is proud of his heritage and hopes to inspire a younger generation of snowboarders. 

Although this is Liam's first time in the Olympics, he has competed at high levels before, including the Youth Olympics in 2020. 

Gill will represent Canada in the snowboard halfpipe event. (Chris Witwicki/Canada Snowboard)

"That experience was amazing, but also didn't have COVID, so there was, like, more things going on. You're a lot more involved," he said. 

Liam said athletes in Beijing will need to stay in bubbles, follow masking rules and get tested regularly. 

Liam is in a hotel, which he said is very nice, about four hours outside of Beijing near the mountains, where he will compete.

A lifelong love

Liam got interested in snowboarding at a young age. 

He said his mother kept him involved in various sports like hockey and skiing. He recalls a visit to a ski resort where he saw his father snowboarding.

"I was like, 'Oh, I want to do that'," he said. 

At the age of three, Liam decided to ask a person he knew he could count on. 

"So one time we went to go take Santa photos. I asked Santa for a snowboard and I was three years old at this time, and Santa laughed at me. He's like 'a three-year-old wants a snowboard?'" Liam said with a laugh. 

"I started crying. And then, yeah, then I got a snowboard. And since then I've been snowboarding." 

Siblings Mia and Liam Gill. "It was something he always wanted to do, since he was a little kid," Mia said of her brother's snowboarding. (Submitted by Mia Gill)

Liam's older sister, Mia Gill, said competing at this level was a lifelong dream. 

"It was something he always wanted to do, since he was a little kid," Mia said. 

But his hard work made that dream a reality. 

"I feel like in the past couple of years he's shown so much dedication, something's got to come out of it," she said.

It hasn't all been happy moments — Liam has broken his collarbone three times.

However, all the pain has led to Liam having a shot at a gold medal in the highest level of the sport.

Liam said he's not overthinking it, and just appreciating the moment.

Interviews by Loren McGinnis and Lawrence Nayally, written by Luke Carroll

now