Whistler’s Mike Janyk led Canada to a tremendous fourth-place finish in Tuesday’s (Feb. 12) team event at the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in Schladming, Austria.
And even though the team was agonizingly close to a podium finish — missing bronze by one-hundredth of a second — Janyk remained thrilled with the group’s performance a day later.
“I’m super proud,” he told The Question on Wednesday (Feb. 13) from Austria. “(We were) so close to getting on the podium, and that would have been insanely special … but we’re just incredibly proud as a team.”
Janyk was joined by Phil Brown, Marie-Michele Gagnon, Erin Mielzynski and Brittany Phelan on the Canadian squad for the parallel races. They knocked off the Swiss team 3-1 in the opening round of the best-of-four format, then advanced to the semifinals after tying the Czech Republic 2-2, but winning on aggregate time.
Facing Sweden in the semis, Janyk beat Mattias Hargin by one-tenth of a second, but was the only Canadian to win their heat, so the team headed into what would be a dramatic bronze-medal battle with Germany.
The Germans took an early 1-0 lead, but Janyk clipped four-time World Cup winner and parallel slalom specialist Felix Neureuther by .07 seconds to tie things up. Mielzynski then came from way behind to catch Olympic slalom champ Maria Höfl-Riesch by one-hundredth at the line, giving Canada the 2-1 advantage.
It all came down to Brown and Fritz Dopfer in the last heat, and the young Canadian put up a great fight, but crossed one-hundredth behind Dopfer, and Germany won the tiebreaker by just .03 seconds to capture bronze.
The Austrian crowd went nuts as the host nation’s team swept Sweden 4-0 in the final to take gold. Janyk said it was easy to feed off the energy at the venue during Tuesday’s races.
“The stadium here is insane. Coming in, dropping down lower than the fans in a coliseum atmosphere is wild,” said the 30-year-old. “Against the Swiss, when we first won and I was ahead, I didn’t know I’d have that much emotion and when I crossed I just erupted. It was cool.”
Janyk now turns his attention to Sunday’s (Feb. 17) slalom, which will close out the world championships. His performances in the team event were the latest indication that Janyk has put a rough start to the 2013 season behind him and is skiing closer to his capability, giving him a confidence boost heading into the weekend.
“I showed something last night that I haven’t in a really long time,” he said. “To go up against Felix and win was something quite remarkable.
“It was just another huge step and I found something within myself that I always knew was there … I’m looking forward to Sunday and bringing that same energy.”
Janyk has always been strong at the world championships, winning bronze in 2009, and recording sixth- and 11th-place finishes in years prior. Even when he skied out at Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, in the first run 2011, he was leading at the early splits.
Janyk said he’s seemed to do well at worlds “in spite of how freaked out I was” as a younger racer. But this week, he has a different approach, trying to soak in and appreciate the big stage in Schladming rather than put the importance of the race out of his mind.
“Garmisch was weird because I knew I was skiing well, but I wasn’t really in a good head space and it showed,” he said. “But here, I’m able to embrace that feeling of how special a big event is that I’ve always kind of pushed to the side and never really let myself feel.”
Brown, Trevor Philp and Sasha Zaitsoff will join Janyk on the Canadian slalom squad Sunday.
“This is a tough hill, it’s a challenging hill, but it’s always shown that guys who are willing to put themselves out there and lay it on the line, it elevates them … because of how special this venue is,” said Janyk. “There are going to be some big emotions on Sunday, but it’s going to be amazing and I’m looking forward to it.”
Manny disappointed with downhill
Manuel Osborne-Paradis was among three Canadians in the top 20 of men’s downhill at Schladming, but the Canucks’ streak of consecutive podium finishes at the event came to an end.
Osborne-Paradis, an alum of the Whistler Mountain Ski Club, finished 18th on Saturday (Feb. 9), while teammates Jan Hudec and Ben Thomsen were ninth and 17th, respectively.
Defending champ Erik Guay skied out after a promising start to his run and Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal captured the second downhill world title of his career.
It was a frustrating day for the Canadians, who won gold in men’s downhill at each of the past two world championships, while Hudec finished second behind Svindal back in 2007. Guay looked poised to defend his title after posting some of the fastest splits on the top section of the course, but he hooked an edge halfway down and was taken off his podium pace. He skied off course with just two gates to go.
Osborne-Paradis was the last Canadian to start and when the 29-year-old came across 2.26 seconds behind Svindal, the disappointment on his face was obvious.
“Right from the start I was taking risks and I just didn’t get away with it,” said Osborne-Paradis. “I knew halfway down it was not going well. That’s racing. You go for it and some days are good, some days are bad.”
Svindal, who often trains with the Canadian team, finished ahead of Italy’s Dominik Paris and French skier David Poisson.
“Aksel was the calmest under pressure,” said Guay. “He skied an intelligent race and that’s why he’s the best.”
Saturday’s downhill gold was the second medal of the world championships for Svindal, who earned bronze in last Wednesday’s (Feb. 6) super-G. U.S. star Ted Ligety won that race, with France’s Gauthier de Tessieres picking up silver.
Osborne-Paradis finished 16th in the super-G — his best result in the discipline at a world championships, but not the one he was hoping for.
“It was choppy but the doors were open. There were a couple of doors to get into the top 15, but it didn’t quite pan out,” said Osborne-Paradis, who started 28th. “I skied the top section so terribly, just not like I’ve been skiing.”
Hudec had the top Canadian super-G finish by placing 12th, while Thomsen finished 19th and Guay was 23rd.
The Canadian men’s speed team has returned home to recharge before resuming the World Cup tour at Garmisch-Partenkirchen later this month.