By Steve Ewen
In Gillian Apps' perfect world, she would have been the sibling of an Olympian, too.
Her family name may be synonymous with hockey in this country, but the Canadian women's hockey forward's older sister Amy was a capable enough soccer midfielder that she was in the player pool at one point to take part in the Beijing 2008 Games.
The one-time Vancouver Whitecap stalwart missed much of 2006 with an allergic reaction to an antibiotic that left her with symptoms similar to post-concussion syndrome.
The following year, she tore an anterior cruciate ligament. She wasn't a lock to make it, but, when it came time for then coach Even Pellerud to finalize his Olympic team, her body was too beat up to truly compete for a position.
She took part in her last game with the national team in 2007. She was capped just twice, but, on some level, it felt like she was only starting to find her niche.
When you talk about it with the sisters, whose grandfather Syl is a hockey hall of famer and whose father Syl Jr., played over 700 games in the NHL, it's Gillian who seems the most gutted by that fact.
"She was my role model growing up ... she still is," said Apps, 26. "She's my best friend. I've seen her go through so much, so many ups and downs.
"When I was little, I aspired to be like her. For me, it's very special that she can be here."
Amy, 31, was too sick to travel to Turin in 2006 to see her sister play in her first Olympics. She lives a slapshot and a looping corner kick from the competition this time; the chance to join the Whitecaps attracted her west from Unionville, Ont., in 2002 and she's been living in Steveston for several years.
She wasn't a young phenom like her sister, who played her first national team games in 2001. She was a soccer player that a hockey player would love.
She'd high-tail it into traffic. She tackled with gusto.
"She's a lot smaller than me," said Gillian, who is seven inches taller, "but she always played big."
Amy admits that she was devastated to have injury and illness play a major role in her missing out on an Olympic spot, and it took time for her to get over having to leave high-level competition. Still, she says she's never had a single jealous thought about her sister.
"This is completely separate," said Amy, who did play hockey growing up. "This is about family."
She has a point. As much as no one may be more disappointed for how things played out for Amy than Gillian, no one may be more thrilled for what's happened to Gillian than Amy.
Amy calls her sister's bit in a Nike TV commercial "so exciting and surreal." She talks about how Gillian may have looked up to her when they were younger, but it quickly reversed in her mind.
"She's my best friend" said Amy. "We haven't lived in the same city for several years, but we still talk every day."
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