The Calgary Journal
The Calgary Journal

Professor thrilled to be selected for prestigious event in Guadalajara, Mexico

thumb panam

 It takes time, training and years of dedication for athletes to make it to the world stage and compete for their country at the Pan American Games. 

Little do people know, that much like athletes it takes years of dedication and preparation to their profession for athletic therapists to be able to represent their country at the games.

 

Khatija Westbrook, head athletic therapist at Mount Royal University, feels honoured to work alongside world-class athletes. She was recently chosen to go to the Pan Am Games in Guadalajara, Mexico, from Oct. 14-30 that features athletes from North, South and Central America.

"We all are excited to help the athletes excel," she says. "It is quite an honour to be given the opportunity to help them reach their dreams."

"I don't ever believe that I am the reason why someone would win an event, but if I help someone win who wouldn't have otherwise won because of an injury, then that is pretty cool."panamHead MRU athletic trainer Khatija Westbrook
Photo by: Caitlin Gajdostik

Westbrook has worked hard to get to this point.

Along with her education — a physical education and physiotherapy bachelor's degree from the University of Toronto and a master's and doctorate in sports epidemiology from the University of Alberta — Westbrook has had to research the sports she will be covering and attend orientation education seminars in Toronto.

Westbrook has been assigned four specific sports at this year's games: table tennis, equestrian, modern pentathlon and speed roller-skating. She will be expected to be present at these events when Team Canada athletes are competing. In addition to assisting the specific teams, she will conduct clinical hours for all Team Canada athletes as well. Westbrook estimates that she will average working 14-16 hours a day over the course of the Pan Am Games.

Brennan Mahon, a student athletic therapist who works with the MRU Cougars men's basketball team, says that no one ever thinks about how difficult it is for the trainers to make it to world- level sports events such as the Pan Am Games.

"It is very impressive that she gets to go," Mahon says. "As difficult as it is for an athlete to make it, I think the ratio for athletic therapists they allow is similar — so few get to go."

The process to make it onto the medical team for major games like the Pan American's is lengthy and complicated. An athletic therapist has to apply a year before the games begin and after the application process, a body of higher officials sifts through the many applicants and grades them on a point system. Education and past experience in games or with professional teams are just some of the qualities that officials look for.

Joelle Sexsmith, a fourth year MRU student in the athletic therapy program believes that the officials made the right selection.

"This is such an amazing opportunity for her. She is so brilliant. I know she will do a good job."

Although Westbrook is excited to have been chosen for the games, half of her satisfaction comes from the fact that she will be able to use her Pan Am experience to enhance her arsenal of accomplishments to qualify for Olympic selection.

"I am going to try to get to the next Olympics and the Pan Ams are under the Canadian Olympic Association," Westbrook states. "So, at least half of the sports in Pan Ams are qualifiers for the Olympics .If I go there and get good reviews, I will have a better chance of making it to the Olympics."

The process to apply and get accepted to go to the Olympics can take up to two years; Westbrook is right in the middle of the process waiting to hear word.

Since she was born in England, though raised in Calgary, getting selected for the London summer Olympics next year would be exciting for Westbrook.

"I was 10 years old watching an opening ceremony for the Olympics and when I saw the medical staff announced and walking out as part of team Canada — I laugh at this — but in my head I was saying 'I want to go to the Olympics! I want to be on the medical team!' Most children would have said that they want to go the Olympics and win a gold medal. Not me. So I knew I had that interest from a young age and I hope to one day fulfill my dream."