Para ice hockey player Greg Westlake, left, and wheelchair curler Ina Forrest, right, were named Canada’s flag-bearers for the opening ceremony of the 2022 Beijing Paralympics on Tuesday. (CBC Sports – image credit)
When Team Canada enters the National Stadium for the opening ceremony of the 2022 Beijing Paralympics, it will be led by wheelchair curler Ina Forrest and Para hockey player Greg Westlake.
The Canadian Paralympic Committee announced on Tuesday that Forrest and Westlake would be the team’s flag-bearers for the event, which begins Friday at 6:30 a.m. ET on CBC-TV, the free CBC Gem app and CBCSports.ca.
Forrest, 59, will compete at her fourth consecutive Games. She won gold in the first two but is now looking to avenge her 2018 bronze medal as part of a Canadian rink skipped by fellow Paralympic veteran Mark Ideson.
“It is a great privilege to be asked to be flag bearer, and it will truly be an honour, a thrill and a responsibility to carry the flag and show the whole world all the great athletes behind me,” Forrest said.
“I remember my first time going into Vancouver 2010 and the feeling you had with the roar of all the Canadian supporters, and I know family and friends and lots of Canadians are watching and supporting us in the same way. I hope that all first-time Paralympians have that same feeling at these Games because it’s a tremendous proud-to-be-Canadian moment.”
Forrest’s curling career began 20 years after she was struck by a drunk driver, leaving her paralyzed.
The Spallumcheen, B.C., started in the sport at 41 years old in 2004, and she was named to the national team two years later. She’s now participated in 12 straight world championships, winning three gold medals in addition to one silver. Canada was eliminated in the quarter-finals of the most recent worlds in 2021.
Forrest was also inducted to the Canadian curling Hall of Fame in 2016.
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Westlake hopes to regain gold
Westlake, 35, is a former captain of the Canadian Para hockey team looking to earn his fourth medal in his fifth Games. The Oakville, Ont., native helped Canada win gold in 2006 before missing the podium in 2010 and rebounding for bronze in 2014.
He was also part of the 2018 squad that was seemingly on track to regain gold before it surrendered the equalizer to the U.S. with less than 40 seconds remaining in the title game. The Americans would go on to win in overtime.
“It is an incredible honour to carry the Canadian flag at the opening ceremony of the 2022 Paralympic Winter Games, and to share this honour with an exceptional athlete like Ina is very special,” Westlake said.
“While I am very proud to represent my country and be a member of the Canadian Paralympic Team for my fifth Games, I am truly humbled and cannot thank my teammates, coaches and our staff enough, as well as all those who were involved in the selection process for this incredible opportunity.”
LISTEN | Westlake joins CBC Sports’ Player’s Own Voice podcast:
Westlake, whose legs were amputated below the knees at just 18 months old, is Canada’s third all-time leading Paralympic scorer with 18 points. He’ll pass the captaincy on to 27-year-old Tyler McGregor in Beijing.
Canada’s chef de mission Josh Dueck further emphasized that both athletes have earned the right to lead Canada into these Games.
“Ina and Greg are not only two of Canada’s most successful Paralympians who have reached the absolute pinnacle of their sports, they also both embody the best of Paralympic values and are incredible ambassadors for sport,” Dueck said.
“Carrying the flag is a much-deserved honour for them both and a reflection of their years of dedication and achievements. I will be proud to march behind them at the Opening Ceremony and I know the entire team is supporting them.”
Canada named its 49-person Paralympic team, including 30 veterans and 19 rookies, shortly after the conclusion of the Olympics.
Friday’s opening ceremony will be hosted in English by veteran broadcaster Scott Russell and in French by Marie-José Turcotte and retired swimmer Benoît Huot, who won 20 Paralympic medals and 32 at world championships in 20 years with the Canadian national team.
The opening and closing ceremonies (March 13) will be presented with closed captioning, described video and American Sign Language integrations.