KRANJSKA, Slovenia – Three-time Olympian Mike Janyk, the leading Canadian slalom skier of his generation, announced Thursday that he plans to hang up his skis at the end of the season.
The 31-year-old from Whistler, B.C., who famously won bronze at the 2009 world championships, is set to take part in his final World Cup race this weekend with qualification for the World Cup finals hanging in the balance. His last race as a member of the Canadian Alpine Ski Team is expected to be later this month at the Sport Chek Canadian Championships, which are taking place in his hometown of Whistler.
Janyk, who grew up in a skiing family and spent his youth chasing his sister and now retired alpine star Britt Janyk down the mountain, said he made the decision to retire shortly before the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games.
“I had a break at home before the Olympics and I just knew it was time. I don’t feel like I made the decision – it was just so clear it was the right time,” said Janyk, a four-time Canadian champion who has been a member of the Canadian Alpine Ski Team since 2000 and made his World Cup debut two years later.
“It’s been incredibly freeing but I’ve also been riding a wave of emotions. I’ve been so blessed to live my dream as a World Cup skier. It’s been an honour to wear the Canadian Alpine Ski Team patch for 14 years.”
Janyk, who was mentored by now retired star Thomas Grandi and longtime coach Dusan Grasic, achieved his dream of following his older sister Britt onto the national team and went on to have a superb World Cup career – finishing second in Beaver Creek in 2006 and racking up 27 top-10 results.
“I remember laying on my bed, with a broken leg, as a 13-year-old and saying to myself that I wanted to compete in the Olympics for Canada and on the World Cup,” Janyk said. “I remember thinking that if I could be on the Canadian team and ski on the World Cup it would prove that anything is possible.
“That was my dream. The world championship (podium) was special for the team – everyone who was supporting me. And the Beaver Creek podium was amazing because my friends were there – 13 of them. The World Cup podium, the top-10s, they were a bonus. They weren’t part of my original dream.”
Janyk’s older sister Britt, a World Cup winner, Olympian and 15-time Canadian champion who retired in 2011, said it was her brother’s love of ski racing that set him apart as a person and athlete.
“Michael has such a passion for skiing and for sport. His ability to always stay on task and to train with such dedication and commitment has always been an inspiration for me,” Britt said. “We trained and raced alongside each other for many years and we have so many wonderful memories together. It sure was something special to race together on the World Cup. Alpine skiing will miss him, but you can be sure he will still be a passionate athlete and sportsman.”
Janyk, whose mom Andree was also a ski racer, made his Olympic debut in 2006, when he was 17th in the slalom. He was 13th in his hometown Olympics in 2010 and finished 16th in Sochi, Russia, last month. A proud Canadian, Janyk credits his teammates and coaches for the success he had throughout his career.
“Tom (Grandi) was amazing. He taught me to be a professional and a real World Cup player,” Janyk said. “My sister – it was so cool to be able to have my career at the same time she had hers.
“My competitors – Ted (Ligety), Bode (Miller), Aksel (Lund Svindal) and others – all taught me a lot but I learned so much from my teammates – JP Roy, Cousi (Julien Cousineau). There was a group of us – Ryan Semple, Pat Biggs, Brad Spence, Paul Stutz, Scott Barrett – who all pushed each other. I didn’t want them to beat me but we had this group camaraderie. They were instrumental in my career.”
Spence praised his teammate’s leadership skills.
“I’d have to say one of my most positive memories of Mike was back in March of 2008 at Kranjska Gora, Slovenia,” Spence recalled. “It was to be my first World Cup slalom race of my career and when I first saw the race hill, I was intimidated by how steep the finish pitch looked. He said to me. ‘It doesn’t ski as steep as it looks,’ and as a rookie, those are rather comforting words. Two days later, I went on to finish 13th, which, to this day, is one of the most memorable races of my career.
“I’ve known Mike for a lot of years and it’s been interesting seeing him grow as an athlete and as a person. I’m not sure where his path will lead him next, but I wish him the best.”
Janyk, who established a foundation and annual ski camp for kids with his teammate Manuel Osborne-Paradis in 2007, doesn’t have any concrete plans for post-retirement life but figures he’ll have plenty to keep him occupied.
“I enjoy writing a lot – I will probably spend some time doing that,” Janyk said. “I love putting on events. I’m interested in the production of events, though what that leads to, who knows?
“Right now the thing that excites me the most is the foundation that Manny and I started. I’ve really enjoyed building that and I’m really passionate about it. I’ve been so blessed to live my dream and I want to pass that on to the next generation.”