Canadian Michael Janyk wins bronze at world ski championships
Graham Dunbar, The Associated Press
Published Sunday, February 15, 2009 3:07PM EST
VAL D'ISERE, France - As he stood in the starter's gate awaiting the start of his second run in the men's slalom event Sunday at the world championships, a calm came over Canadian Michael Janyk.
The native of Whistler, B.C., stood ninth overall yet wasn't the least bit nervous because there was no mystery about what he had to do.
"I put down a solid first run, nothing exceptional . . . but I knew I really needed to take risks," Janyk said during a conference call. "On this course if you take big risks you can go out as many people did but if you can make it with those risks it can really pay off.
"I wasn't that nervous in the start because it was the world championships and either a medal or nothing. I said to myself, "I've got nothing to lose. I'm in ninth place, I want to move up as much as possible and I need to attack.' It was a really, really hard hill and tough hill conditions but I had a lot of confidence so I knew if I just skied like I normally do in training that it would work out."
A brilliant second run anchored a solid third-place finish for Janyk, 26, who became the first Canadian male to earn a medal in a technical ski event, a lofty accomplishment indeed considering Janyk has battled back injuries.
"That part hasn't set in yet," Janyk said. "That's really cool that I was able to do that.
"It's kind of a running joke between myself and other guys on the team of who's going to be the first one because it's inevitable as we see it. To be the first one to podium and get a medal at the world championships, it's something special and more icing on the cake."
Manfred Pranger of Austria won in a two-run time of one minute 44.17 seconds as a succession of challengers failed to finish the second leg.
Pranger held off France's Julien Lizeroux, who finished 0.18 behind in second. Janyk climbed from ninth to third, 0.35 back, as only two of the top eight skiers from the first run were able to complete the second leg.
A fresh layer of ice crusted the course after crews spent Saturday evening tilling the surface then hosing water on the slalom track, which dropped 220 metres over its length of just 549 metres.
Janyk's first call after finishing third was to his parents in Whistler. Then he called his sister, Britt, 28, a member of the national women's ski squad.
"We have a really good connection between her success and my success," Janyk said. "We always talk and try to learn from each other.
"We cringe for each other when we watch each other race and I hope we can do something special in our home town next year."
Next year, Vancouver and Whistler will host the world when it stages the 2010 Winter Games. Janyk said his achievement was important for the team.
"Right now in this moment, it gives me a lot of confidence knowing I can perform on a big day," he said. "Going into the world championships you try to tell yourself that it's just another race but it's not.
"You really have to embrace the pressure of a big event and so I really tried to do that this time. With this result, for sure it will bring more pressure to next year . . . No matter what the pressure is, I'm ready for it and glad that it's happening."
Janyk won Canada's second medal at Val d'Isere after Calgary's John Kucera earned gold in the downhill last weekend. Janyk said he was able to draw inspiration from Kucera's victory and hopes his third-place finish can do the same for his teammates.
"I hope it shows the rest of my team the hard work pays off," Janyk said. "For our slalom group, last year we fell off the map completely with my back injury, (veteran Thomas Grandi's) retirement and people being injured we really had to make a mark this year.
"I hope my performance confirms with everybody that, `Hey, we're not just some other country competing. We're Canada and we can make medals."'
Pranger secured Austria's first men's gold in the last event of the championships and denied host France the gold it desperately wanted.
Pranger led after the first run, holding a 0.04 advantage over Sweden's Johan Brolenius.
Brolenius and French favourite Jean-Baptiste Grange, who was third going into the final run, both fell in the second leg. American Ted Ligety, who had been fifth, straddled the second gate as 13 skiers of the top 30 failed to get down a second time.
Pranger, 31, who skies only in the slalom discipline, held his nerve to deliver a steady second run. It was his first medal at a major championships, to go with three World Cup victories.
Pranger won two World Cup races at Schladming and Kitzbuehel in his home country inside a three-day span in January 2005. He suffered a serious knee injury in December 2007 and did not win again until last month at Wengen, Switzerland.
Lizeroux won his second silver medal of the championships, showing once again that he could control his nerves in front of the home crowd.
The 29-year-old Frenchman has been fourth fastest in the morning. He had been 22nd after the downhill portion of the super-combi event here Monday before producing the fastest slalom time to leap into the silver medal spot.
American Jimmy Cochran produced the fastest run of the afternoon, clocking 50.85 seconds to move up from 22nd to 10th place.
The men's slalom set up as the hardest-fought event of the championship with a host of proven big-race performers in contention.
But it also had perhaps the toughest racing surface prepared during a two-week event noted -- maybe even notorious -- for icy conditions.
Six of the top 15 racers failed to finish the morning run.
Defending world champion Mario Matt, Olympic silver medallist Reinfried Herbst and defending overall World Cup champion Bode Miller were all caught out by tight turns and a treacherous surface in the top half.
Herbst was a strong pre-race favourite but he quickly exited after his inside ski went from under him jumping into a left-hand turn.
Miller was looking to make history as the first man to win career gold medals in all five events at the world championships, but never seemed comfortable and almost fell before failing to make a right-hand turn before halfway.
"I was pretty psyched," Miller said. "Right out of the start I go to the first gate and I can't get grip, then there's nothing for me to do."
The American star, who failed to win a medal for the third straight major championships, was unhappy that the surface was altered after the women's slalom.
--With files from The Canadian Press