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Kendyn Mashinter and the World Juniors breakthrough
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In a matter of just a few years, Sudbury native Kendyn Mashinter has opened many eyes when it comes to those who follow national nordic ski talent in Canada.

In fact, the 21 year-old graduate of Lo-Ellen Park Secondary showed enough promise - not to mention some very impressive results - to earn himself a spot on the six-member Canadian Junior team that would compete recently at the 2023 Nordic Junior/U23 World Championships at Whistler Olympic Park in British Columbia.

There, he would have his eyes opened.

"The competition was really challenging; I realized just how competitive the Europeans are, especially the Scandinavians," said Mashinter, who committed to balancing his athletic and academic pursuits in making the move to Thunder Bay two years ago, site of one of the National Training Centres for Nordiq Canada.

"I realized that there is a whole other world out there of top level athletes and it made me reflect on my dreams, dreams of being one of the best skiers in the world, competing at the Olympics and all of these things."

"It woke me up, a little bit," added Mashinter. "I've got a lot of work to do if I want to get to the level I want to be at in the future. Going into this next training season, I know that I am going to have to work my butt off to beat the Europeans."

These might sound like awfully lofty goals - but when one considers that he did not even pick up the sport until high-school, did not join a club team until he was in grade 11, and still somehow found a way to finish second in the classic sprint race at Selection Trials in Prince George in January of this year - well, Mashinter has every right to dream big.

The reasons for his excitement and optimism, however, go far beyond a singular good showing in one particular race. His is a pathway that has been building very much in the right direction for the past couple of years.

"At nationals in Whistler last year, I had a really good race in the classic sprint (4th at U20 nationals)," he said. "That gave me a lot of motivation going into this season. I knew that I had improved a lot, I was seeing big changes, but I really didn't know what to expect at nationals."

As much as anything, the results justified his decision to take a serious crack at the upper echelon of nordic ski talent in Canada, even if it meant accepting a reduced course load in his Kinesiology studies at Lakehead University.

"Before going to Thunder Bay, I didn't really know if this was the right choice for me," confessed Mashinter. "Am I able to compete at this elite level? Do I want to make the sacrifices necessary to see my potential? I decided to make the jump because I thought I would regret it if I didn't."

"I am happy with the decision I made."

Truth be told, Mashinter has had to deal with a couple of major decisions, at the least.

For a little while now, the graduate of the Lo-Ellen Park Knights program who remains eternally grateful for the guidance and support of coach/teacher Colin Ward and company in the more formative stages of his nordic career has known that he suffers from "bilateral compartment syndrome".

An ailment to his shins that would render skate skiing extremely uncomfortable all while having minimal effect for his classic ski endeavours would require surgery, at some point, if Mashinter truly wished to reach his potential. The only question was exactly when to go under the knife for a procedure that is relatively routine (at least as far as surgeries go).

"I made the decision to train super hard throughout the summer, fall and early part of winter, to wait until now to have the surgery so that I would have a chance to compete at my full ability in the classic races this season," said Mashinter. "It worked out great."

"I met my goals and made the World Junior team."

In spite of his rapid ascension in the sport, that targeted accomplishment was hardly a given for the latest in a long line of very talented cross-country skiers to emerge from the nickel basin. "I knew that I was at a bit of a disadvantage because I was racing two of the three events (classic sprint and 20km classic, but not the distance skate ski race)."

"I had put a lot of training focus this year in the sprint area; it was my best chance of making the team."

In the end, Mashinter would play his cards just right. And though he has no absolute way of knowing this, he cannot help but believe that a big part of the rationale for his selection by Nordiq Canada lie in a future that remains unknown - but is ripe with positivity.

"I think they see potential in me," he said. "They know I have a hard work ethic. They are looking forward to seeing just how fast I can be in time. I do agree that I was a good pick, for sure," he added with a smile.

And if that raises a few eyebrows along the way, so be it.