A broken-down T-bar at an Austrian ski hill is what gave Mark Hendrickson the push he needed to make his first big jump after rehabbing his second ACL reconstruction. At his first training camp back with the team, the 21-year old slopestyle skier, then 18, was ready to jump, but without a lift up the mountain there was no time for a warmup.
A little nudge from a teammate not to hesitate, to just commit to it, helped Hendrickson take a leap of faith. “I needed that to get back into my original mindset,” recalls Hendrickson.
So, without hesitation he launched himself into the air and made a perfect landing.
If Hendrickson seems young to have already endured two full ACL surgeries and recoveries, it’s because he is. At 15, the first ACL recovery went well, but the second one, in 2017, was more painful and took longer.
That’s when he started working with CSI Calgary’s physiotherapist, Sarah Robinson, and strength and conditioning coach, Mike Lane. On the long road back, Hendrickson says they helped him get back on track. “They took a very coordinated approach,” he remembers. “It was cool to be looked after with focus and importance. I felt like I wanted to come back for them too.”
A full year off, a lot of hard work, and a bit of soul-searching is what Hendrickson needed to find himself ready to jump again. After that first landing in Austria, he was back.
Hendrickson credits Robinson and Lane and the whole team at CSI Calgary with helping him to regain his form. “They were really good at keeping me focused and on task,” he says. “I felt I owed it to them as much as myself.”
Back on the hill, Hendrickson unexpectedly found himself on top of the podium, winning a gold medal – his first – at a World Cup in France in January 2020. His victory gave him confidence that he could keep up with the sport and that his knees were as good as new. It also gave him gratitude for the team who helped him get there.
“The first thing I thought about after that win in France was, ‘I can’t wait to see those guys’”, says Hendrickson. “I definitely would have quit skiing if it wasn’t for them.”