Poster boy: Yukoner the face of future Olympians

Dick Eastmure, former head coach with the Yukon Alpine Ski Association, remembers Sammy Kent was always fast on the slopes. It was in the dressing room that he was slow.

Dick Eastmure, former head coach with the Yukon Alpine Ski Association, remembers Sammy Kent was always fast on the slopes. It was in the dressing room that he was slow.

“He was always the last one out the door, (when) getting ready,” said Eastmure. “Maybe that was good. He was relaxed and maybe that prepared him for his time on the ski hill.”

This week the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games organizing committee launched its Find Your Passion in Sport poster campaign. In partnership with the Four Host First Nations and the Canadian government, the campaign is part of larger program intended to increase aboriginal participation in the Games, both as athletes and organizers.

Featured in one of the three posters is Kent, 20, a giant slalom skier from Whitehorse.

“I’ve done things in my sport as a First Nations (athlete) that haven’t been done before,” said Kent. “I can be inspiration to younger First Nations kids.”

Ironically, although an accomplished skier on a promotional Olympics poster, Kent does not consider competing in the 2010 Games as realistic.

“I wouldn’t be able to do it for 2010, but maybe the Olympics after that,” said Kent. “I’m too young and not skiing fast enough right now.”

The poster, which will be printed 78,000 times and distributed to schools nationwide, shows Kent at Nakiska Mountain Resort outside Calgary, the site of the downhill events during the 1988 Olympics and where Kent often trains.

Kent was first introduced to skiing at the age of two while on a family vacation in Whistler, BC. By the age of six he had already grabbed the notice of the Yukon Alpine Ski Association and began training with Eastmure until he was 16.

“He’s a talented kid and he’s really dedicated to what he’s doing,” said Eastmure. “Athletically he has really good balance and reflexes. Those are good attributes to that sport or any other.”

Kent’s breakthrough performance came in the 2004 Arctic Winter Games in Fort McMurray, Alberta, where he won three gold medals.

“That was my first Winter Games and actually my only ones,” said Kent. “I was looking forward to going to the Winter Games a couple times before that. But the first time I was too young and the second time I broke my arm right before the qualifying races at Mount Sima.

“I didn’t know what to expect, but I was happy to come out with three gold medals.”

In 2004, Kent began training on the Vancouver Ski Team before moving to Calgary when he was accepted to the National Sports School. Since then he has had a top-20 finish at the Canadian Nationals in 2007, and took home fourth- and sixth-place finishes in the International Ski Federation Giant Slalom races in Lake Louise the following year.

Unfortunately, Kent missed the start of this season, breaking his collarbone in November while training in Colorado.

“I fell and got kicked up off my skis and flew down about 20-feet and landed on a bump,” said Kent. “I had to get surgery and they put in a plate and six screws. They put me back together and I was back on the snow in about a month.”

Not just back on the snow, Kent bounced back to take sixth and ninth in two International Ski Federation Giant Slalom races in January. In February he took second at the Pontiac GMC Cup at Mount Norquay, Alberta.

“It was a good competition and a fun race,” said Kent.

In Calgary, Kent actually shares residence with another world-class skier, Canadian John Kucera who recently won the 2009 World Championship Downhill in Val d’Isere, France.

“We’re not on the same team, but sometimes we ski together,” said Kent.

Besides being a fan of soccer, karate and mountain biking, Kent also enjoys freestyle skiing, but his reason for focusing on the giant slalom is simple.

“Probably because I’m better at it,” said Kent with a chuckle. “It just comes naturally.”

Contact Tom Patrick at tomp@yukon-news.com

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