The narrative in sport is often simply an exercise in vicariousness—nose pressed to the glass at Scotiabank Arena praying the Leafs return to glory; in a sea of fans in Jurassic Park willing the Raptors to new heights; watching Vladimir Guerrero Jr. elicit memories of his dad, memories of ‘92 and ‘93. Most of us are content to sit on the sidelines. But without those who aspire to greatness, we’d have no sideline upon which to sit.
Greg Westlake gives us a reason to grace the sidelines, bleachers, and benches. Westlake is blessed with an unparalleled competitive spirit and the support of a family, community, and region. Westlake has reached heights many of us couldn’t possibly conceive of in our wildest fantasies. He’s a three-time Paralympic Games’ medalist and five-time in World Championship medalist in Para ice hockey. Westlake has achieved at levels that defy inspiration, and veer into the fantastical.
Westlake truly believes in the notion of “home”, of community. “Home is where family is,” he contends. “All of my siblings and parents live in Oakville. I bought a house here last summer and love being back in Oakville. I have used all the resources in this area to become the athlete I became the person I am today. I have been so active in this community for a long time now. So many people from the GTA have helped me over the years. Teachers, coaches, doctors, community leaders all help give me that sense of community and ‘home’.”
As athletes such as Westlake travel the world competing, and people learn they’re from Ontario, reactions are as we might expect. “As Canadians, we get a lot of love from people all over the world. People just assume we are friendly and have good intentions. Playing for Team Canada and having the opportunity to wear the maple leaf on lots of my clothes, travel bags and equipment has definitely been an ice breaker over the years while traveling.”
Westlake has used the resources afforded him to become a world-class athlete and understands the importance of building the next generation of competitors from a GTA that has been so good to him. Giving back to the community, whether through War Amps, the Matt Cook Foundation, or other charitable causes, inform that sense of community. “The GTA is a great place to be involved in community initiatives. There are so many great grassroots programs for kids. I’ve lived in Toronto, Mississauga, and now Oakville and there are so many different great organizations doing amazing work to help people in their community. I enjoy how simple it is to get involved.”
Ambassadorship is asked of many athletes, but few embrace its responsibility and privilege as fully as Westlake does. “It is easy for me to be a spokesperson for Paralympic sport on an international level. I view myself as a very lucky person to be able to play the game I’ve loved since I was born. I get to use my status as a hockey player to do charity work, travel the world, and have some great experiences.”
But whether in Torino, Pyeongchang, Sochi, Marlborough, Goyang, Ostrava, or Hamar realizing his dreams, the simplicity of home always calls. “I am most excited these days to get home and go for a walk along the lakeshore with my girlfriend Catherine and my dog Bailey. Then pick one of our favourite restaurants downtown Oakville and go for a nice meal.”