#17: Daniel Westley

Written by Laurel Crosby

Daniel Wesley was one of the most outstanding and versatile athletes of his day. In 1973 he became a double amputee at the young age of 13 after falling under a moving train. Early into his rehabilitation, he met Terry Fox and Rick Hansen, and was introduced to wheelchair basketball. By 1978, he discovered and started to find success at wheelchair track.

In 1988 he represented Canada at the world stage during the 1988 Paralympic Games in Seoul, South Korea. He excelled at these Games, bringing home two gold medals, two silver medals, and one bronze medal. Following the success of these Games, Daniel turned his interests toward road racing, competing in a number of marathons and races. In 1992, he won the London Marathon and set a new course record.

Always interested in a new challenge, Daniel soon took up para alpine skiing, competing at his first Winter Paralympics in 1994 in Lillehammer, Norway. He then went on to compete in the 1998 Winter Paralympics in Nagano, Japan, where he won a gold medal in the Super G and a bronze medal in the men’s downhill. Daniel experienced great success in the Salt Lake City Paralympics in 2002, taking home a gold medal in the men’s Slalom, a silver medal in the Super G, and a bronze in the men’s downhill. In 2003, he achieved in further success in ranking 3rd place overall in the World Cup rankings. Unfortunately, following this competition, the classification system changed significantly in skiing, making it more difficult for Daniel to remain competitive.

Daniel was an athlete who was ahead of his time in terms of training, and always thought outside of the box. He recognized early in his career that while physical training is essential, mental training and preparation are equally, if not more important. Always looking for an edge in competition, he embraced a number of unique strategies for mental preparation for his races. He became trained in transcendental meditation, which he found highly effective and an important aspect of his athletic training. He also realized the need for continuous innovation and evolution of his athletic equipment; experimenting with chair designs, weight, and even gloves.

Daniel continues to live an active life, enjoying a variety of sports and is an engaging and enthusiastic speaker in schools and leadership conferences.