Player's Own Voice

Player's Own Voice podcast: Greg Westlake, ironman and spokesman

CBC Sports' Player's Own Voice podcast connects with five-time paralympian Greg Westlake and gets a rinkfull of reasons to follow disabled athletes' stories.

Para hockey advocate can't wait for puck to drop in Beijing

Canadian Paralympic athlete Greg Westlake. (The Canadian Press)

Greg Westlake is both ironman and spokesman for para hockey. Ironman because Beijing will be his fifth Paralympic Games, and he remains remarkably fit and injury free despite his long and storied career. Spokesman because his ideas and involvement with para sport are only getting more persuasive with each passing year.

For Westlake, it's all about knowing your worth and not being shy to demand it. The forward is frank about where he takes his inspiration for the future of para hockey: The NHL experience does not speak to him. Parathletes don't get multi-million-dollar contracts.

For Westlake, it is more the likes of women hockey stars Cheryl Pounder or Hayley Wickenheiser who provide role models for his sport. Those women depended on carding money to stay in the game, and they had to fight to get their due respect. Women athletes had to push for equal facilities, equal training, coaching, equal nutrition, just as disabled athletes have had to do.

Westlake draws another parallel for Player's Own Voice podcast host Anastasia Bucsis to consider: there are still small pockets of what he calls ignorant people who don't believe women athletes deserve our attention or respect. And disabled athletes know that battle too well.

But with the benefit of 20 years in the game, Westlake can offer one very encouraging assessment — he says the para athletes all around him are fitter and younger than ever before.  And for that, proper investment by national sporting organizations gets the credit.

You don't need reasons to watch these hard athletes in action, but a few minutes in Westlake's company will provide you with a tonne of them.

The Beijing Paralympic games begin Friday March 4.

Like the CBC Sports' Player's Own Voice essay series, POV podcast lets athletes speak to Canadians about issues from a personal perspective. 

A transcript is here for our hard of hearing audience. To listen to Greg Westlake or any of the guests from earlier episodes, and more Canadian athletes throughout the 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympics, head to CBC Listen — or wherever else you get your podcasts.

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