No stopping her

ADAM WAZNY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:33 AM ET

SELKIRK -- Like most of the pucks fired her way, epilepsy has yet to beat Chanda Gunn.

It almost did. When she was nine-years-old, the Huntington Beach, Calif.-product spent most of her time in the pool, with dreams of making it to the Olympics as a champion swimmer. That path experienced some choppy waters, though. She had her first major seizure back then and despite long explanations from adults out-lining the reasons, she was forced to stop swimming.

"At the time I didn't understand why," Gunn said. "It didn't make any sense to me."

Flash forward to 1999. Gunn, now a teenage women's hockey goaltending sensation, was ready to take the next step in her athletic career with the University of Wisconsin. Epilepsy, a neurological disorder, was seemingly under control thanks to a strict medicinal schedule following her swimming career, and her concern for the condition was lifting.

After all, she was a freshman in college, in a sport she fell in love with after just four years of playing. She was starting to feel invincible, and starting to neglect the treatment.

"It was so well controlled my family and I didn't know enough about it as much as we should," she said. "So when I got older, that's when things happened ... I got very sick when I was at Wisconsin."

During the recruitment process, Gunn never told officials of her condition, and when her health failed her and her seizure frequency began to increase, she was sent back to California -- just three months into her first season. Suddenly, a new worry was entering the equation. Other people making decisions about her future might not see a solid netminder and a future Olympian. They might only see epilepsy.

"I dreamed about playing college hockey and that was a big deal for me," said Gunn, 27, and an Olympic bronze medal winner at Turin in 2006. "I was a 17-year-old freshman in college and I was so excited and I had it taken away from me. I cried, I was upset, but at the same time I don't think it ever entered my mind that this was going to prevent me from playing. It was more like, I was there, and I was going to have to start all over again.

"At that point, I grew up and grew into it -- realizing that I had to have a better knowledge of my health."

She also had to convince another school to let her play, but given her ability it wasn't difficult to do. Northeastern University signed her up and four years later she finished as the school's all-time leader in save percentage (.938) and second in goal against average (1.85). Following that, Gunn went straight to the U.S. national team in 2004. As she enters her fourth year of international play, she has to be considered the No. 1 netminder for the Americans as the World Women's Hockey Championship heads into the second round this weekend.

As for her condition, Gunn puts a positive spin on it. If it wasn't for epilepsy, she might not have found hockey. Or made it to the Olympics.

"For an outsider looking in, they might look at it as an obstacle or something to overcome. I never really approached it that way."


Videos

Photos