Sammy Kent

Have skis, will travel – Sammy Kent’s sure feet make the grade

Sammy Templeton Kent remembers exactly what grabbed him from the start about skiing. “I really like to go fast,” says the 20-year-old alpine skier from Whitehorse, Yukon.

Kent began skiing at age two on a family trip to Whistler. By the time he was six, he had started in the Nancy Greene Ski League on Yukon’s Mount Sima. That’s where then-head coach Dick Eastmure first got to know him, watching Kent use his exceptional sense of balance, agility and great reflexes to out-ski the competition, taking him further than any skier to come out of the Yukon.

“He’s a modest character. That’s one of his attributes,” says Eastmure. “He’s a great kid with a really good attitude.”

Although Kent loved all kinds of sports, including soccer, karate, mountain biking and freestyle skiing, it was downhill alpine racing that seized his imagination. In addition to the physical rush he gets from booting down a course, he says, “I love alpine ski racing because it’s a friendly competition that has a direct relation to effort and skill level.”

Alpine skiing is Kent’s main passion. Even when he has time off from practice, it’s his go-to mode of relaxation. In 2004, Kent took the boys’ overall juvenile alpine title in the BC north zone. He also left the Arctic Winter Games in Fort McMurray, Alberta with three gold ulus, winning all of his events.

“I love alpine ski racing because it’s a friendly competition that has a direct relation to effort and skill level.”

Though still living in Whitehorse, Kent began racing with the Vancouver Ski Team in 2004. The next year he was accepted into a Calgary high school for elite athletes. An honours student who was enrolled in French immersion from kindergarten to Grade 10, Kent admits that keeping up with both school and sports is tough work.

“My teachers in Whitehorse helped a lot. They were very accommodating,” he recalls. “When I moved to Calgary I got to go to the National Sports School and the school basically works around your sports schedule. You fit in your school when you can, and they really help you get through it.”

Kent now trains and races out of Calgary 12 months a year with the National Alpine Training Centre (NATC) based at Nakiska Mountain Resort. He’s had several top 10, top five and podium finishes in BC and Alberta. In 2007 in Ontario he made a top-20 finish in Giant Slalom in the Canadian Nationals against 132 of Canada’s most accomplished skiers.

Kent is a great athlete who’s only getting better. Kent raced for Team Yukon in front of the home crowd at the 2007 Canada Winter Games in Whitehorse.  In January 2008, he finished fourth and sixth in the International Ski Federation (FIS) Giant Slalom races at Lake Louise. In early November 2008, he broke his collarbone at a training camp in Colorado, but in January 2009, he came in sixth and ninth in two FIS Giant Slalom races. In February 2009 he earned a second place finish at the Pontiac GMC Cup at Mount Norquay, Alberta.

As an Aboriginal sport role model, Kent appears on the Find Your Passion in Sport poster in a photograph taken at Nakiska Ski Resort – the site of the 1988 Calgary Winter Games alpine events. His former coach says locals will be proud to see Kent on the poster.

“It’s pretty cool – neat that it’s going to be in all the schools in Canada and so many copies will be printed,” Kent says. “It’s going to be printed 78,000 times!”

“It feels like I should be under some pressure to do everything right and be the best at everything,” he adds. “I haven’t really felt the pressure yet, but I’m sure I will some day.”

Kent, whose Aboriginal roots come from the Fort McKay First Nation of Alberta, believes Aboriginal role models benefit their communities “by providing a source of inspiration to people to strive to be the best they can be, to set goals, and to put forth all of their energy to attain their dreams, be it in sport or any other aspect of their lives.”

Among his own sources of inspiration is Canadian Ski Cross Team member Brian Bennett. “He just loves to ski,” Kent says. “He always puts in 100 percent of his effort and never lets anybody tell him what is and what isn’t possible. He sets his path and lives his life the way he wants to.”

In 2010, many of his friends will be competing in the Games. “I wish them the best of luck,” he says, “and I am excited to see them excel in their sports.”

He dreams of competing at an Olympic level. “The Olympic Games would be just awesome,” says Kent. “That’s one of my goals for the future. It’s not an easy thing to do – but I feel I might be able to do it.”