Olympian Kelsie Hendry would like to see more children and youth pursue their dreams and encourages youngsters to raise the bar on their hopes and dreams.
Hendry was the keynote speaker at the Swift Current United Way's recent Campaign Kickoff breakfast, delivering an inspiring message that children should be allowed grassroots opportunities to participate in a wide range of activities and sports.
"If kids are given the opportunity you can see the places that they're going to go with it because they can do so much. Once you get them engaged and started, they'll want to come back," Hendry said. "I think it's just so important that they have that opportunity in the community because look at all the things that it has done for me. I think that in different ways, it's always going to be a positive impact on kids."
Hendry is a passionate ambassador for sports even after her recent retirement from pole vaulting. The Saskatoon resident is the Canadian record holder in women's pole vault, and her talent took her to a pair of Commonwealth Games plus gave her a chance to represent Canada at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Hendry established the Canadian record of 4.55 metres during a pair of events in 2008, and she set the Canadian indoor record of 5.60 metres at an event in Arizona in 2012.
"I just encourage the kids to find some sort of a passion and some sort of a challenge. And sometimes that can be a little bit difficult for kids because then they have to go outside of their comfort zone, and they might have to try something new. But no matter what it is, they are going to learn something from it. So that's what I think is really important. And it doesn't just have to be in athletics...it can be in music, in dance, in art, just something that you love that you can challenge yourself and that you can give yourself to that activity, give into the passion."
Hendry noted her own competitive journey started in the sport of gymnastics, and despite not destined to be an elite level gymnast, she felt her training for competitions taught her some valuable lessons.
"I learned how to commit to something. And I learned how to compete for something that was bigger than myself. It wasn't just me going out there. I was part of a team, I was competing for my province, and I was able to travel the world. So there were so many different lessons that I learned while I was a gymnast."
She tried pole vault in High School, and her coaches saw right away she had some talent in the sport. She went on to enjoy a five-year track career at the University of Saskatchewan and was part of a successful track program than won four CIS team championships. She was named Saskatchewan's Female Athlete of the Year in 2007. Pole vault then provided Hendry the opportunity of a lifetime when she qualified for the 2008 Olympics, where she ultimately finished 18th among 33 competitors by clearing 4.30 metres. However, only the top 12 advanced into the medal round, with Hendry just missing the 4.50 metres qualifying standard.
She recalled for the crowd that her family drove from Saskatoon to watch the 1994 Commonwealth Games in Victoria when she was a kid, and she advanced to compete the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Australia before ultimately winning a 2010 Commonwealth Games pole vault bronze medal in India.
After retiring from competition in August, Hendry is now a full-time teacher in Saskatoon, resulting in a quick transition from training to the classroom.
"I think I'm ready for this new chapter of my life, and hopefully I can take the passion that I was putting into pole vault and now shift that and work it into my teaching. I've learned so many different lessons, and been so many different places in the world, that my journey through athletics and the things that I've learned I can now take all of that into my teaching."