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Career best at Canmore World Cup gives local skier opportunity for last tour

Sam Hendry of Canmore has one final ski tour left in him.

CANMORE – Even after achieving career best race results at the Canmore World Cup, Sam Hendry was pretty pessimistic about his chances of receiving more starts on the top circuit this season.

“Unless I was getting podiums here, I think it would be really hard for me to keep going,” said the local cross-country skier on Feb. 9, following the 15km mass start freestyle at the Canmore Nordic Centre.

A few weeks later, the 24-year-old who grew up gliding frozen trails in the Bow Valley got an unexpected call that had the pessimist in him become cheerful.

Hendry was selected to Canada’s World Cup team for the final leg of the tour or Period 5 (P5), which goes to Finland, Norway and wraps up in Sweden March 17.

“I really thought it was unlikely that I’d get the chance to keep racing and certainly not to get those Period 5 starts, so when I did hear from Nordiq Canada, it was super exciting and I was thrilled,” said Hendry on Monday (Feb. 26).

A goal for Hendry was to be racing on the World Cup circuit this season, but he struggled with tough performances on the Continental Cup and US Super Tour.

But the Canmore World Cup (Feb. 9-13) changed everything.

Twenty-seven Canadians were given starting spots, but Hendry was one of the few who stood out among the ski heavyweights of the world claiming Canmore as their own.

A five-time All-American skier for the University of Utah, the higher altitude has always been an advantage for Hendry. He helped inspire the Red and White in the hometown crowd, with a pair of top-30s at the Canmore World Cup, including a personal best 21st in 20km mass start classic.

In the build-up to the local World Cup, Hendry said a key to personal best results was spending all of January in Canmore to train and get in good physical shape.

“I think that the races in Canmore have just made me more ambitious and more focused and hungry for results than ever before,” he said.


A post shared by Sam Hendry (@samh1dry)

Looking forward to the opportunity in P5, the bigger picture is on Hendry’s mind as well, which likely doesn’t involve highly competitive ski racing.

The final weeks of the 2023-24 season will be Hendry’s last ride.

“I am interviewing for medical schools right now for the fall, so I’m planning on retiring at the end of this season so these next World Cup races will probably be my last ski races ever, which is pretty fun and pretty exciting,” said Hendry.

“It gives me a little bit of extra motivation at the end of those races when things are getting really hard, it’s gonna be a little extra motivation to know that it's the end and to push just that much harder.”

Chris Jeffries, Nordiq Canada’s high performance director, watched Hendry grow up skiing at the Canmore Nordic Centre.

He said tougher and longer races, such as the 50km classic coming up on March 10 in Oslo, suits the Canmore skier.

However, Jeffries hopes the final tour is fun and satisfying for the Canmore skier.

“For whatever reason at major championships like World Juniors or U23s, [Hendry] just missed out on qualification or he was sick leading to the championship so I’m sure if you were to ask him, he always probably felt like there was more for him to show and we always knew there is more for him to show,” said Jeffries.

“It’s pretty special to be able to see that come together for him and in what might be his last year of ski racing … in his own backyard with family and friends there to do his best performance in the world stage was really special.”

Nordiq Canada also named to the period 5 World Cup team Xavier McKeever, Katherine Stewart-Jones, Antoine Cyr, Lilianne Gagnon, Sonjaa Schmidt, Sasha Masson and Pierre Grall-Johnson.

Excited to move on, Hendry said he’s ready and looking forward to the next chapter in his life.

He said he will miss the ski community he grew up knowing.

“For me, it’s always been about the community and all the people that are invested and interested in the sport and support the athletes and all the wonderful folks and fellow competitors that I’ve met throughout it,” said Hendry.

“It’s gonna be a shame to not see the same people every winter at all the different races and get to catch up with them.”

Jordan Small

About the Author: Jordan Small

An award-winning reporter, Jordan Small has covered sports, the arts, and news in the Bow Valley since 2014. Originally from Barrie, Ont., Jordan has lived in Alberta since 2013.
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