T'is the Season for Alpine

Mike Janyk Talks Motivation

T’is the season for those who strap on skis and hurl their bodies down the world’s most treacherous mountains. It’s another year for Canada’s national alpine team, who compete in an incomparable sport built on sheer speed and technical precision.

Olympic.ca recently caught up with Mike Janyk, a national skier since 2000, a two-time Olympian and – most notably – a bronze medallist in slalom at the 2009 World Championships.

This is the post-Olympic season, of course the furthest from Sochi 2014, and Janyk said the team is set to build off late success from last season. In the final World Cup back in March, Erik Guay (Mont-Tremblant, Que.) came roaring back to capture the Crystal Globe in super-G as the World Cup champion.

Janyk, who grew up in Whistler (with sister Britt, another veteran on the national alpine team), said that Canadian skiers are relaxed and motivated to post great results this year.

“The big thing you notice is how much weight is gone (from the shoulders) of the entire team,” he said. “It’s so freeing to have gone through the Olympic experience, and to learn from it and look forward to taking those experiences into the season. That’s not to say you can’t compete with that pressure on, but going through it you learn from it. You think: nothing is as tough as that was for me, so what’s to worry about?”

For 19 of the 2010-11 team’s 25 skiers, that might be the underlying sentiment as those 19 have tasted Olympic racing.

Janyk is still feeding off the spark he created in 2009, when he became the first Canadian man to win a technical medal (slalom) at a World Championships.

“That was massive. It goes to show how strong our program has become in technical disciplines. And for that person to be me, I mean… it was such a special day for me. It will always be there, that experience, and it will help me move forward.”

That medal, Guay’s Crystal Globe, and John Kucera’s 2009 world title in downhill, have shown all the skiers that such results are not out of reach. Janyk said that the close-knit team gains confidence, and understands that it can happen. You can have the race of your life on the world’s biggest stage.

“There is light competition among us, as someone might say: ‘Hey, I did it, why haven’t you done it?'” Janyk said. “But at Val d’Isère, just seeing John win the gold medal – he came into the hotel and there was a great spirit, he was lit up, and you have the sense that you can accomplish it all.”

So now they embark on another World Cup circuit, which will be punctuated by the 2011 World Championships, which run Feb. 8 to 20 in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. Last year, Canadian skiers won four World Cup gold medals and eight medals in total.

What will this season hold?