The last time Canada had three women in the top 10 at a World Cup event was 2008 in Cortina , Italy, when the Speed Queens; Emily Brydon, Britt Janyk, and I, reigned.
Well, as of this weekend, that reign has officially been passed on as Erin Mielzynski finished 3rd
, followed closely by Marie-Michele Gagnon in 8th and Britt Phelan (10th) in Zagreb, Croatia's slalom event this past Friday.
Canada has never had a women's slalom team show the strength, speed and consistency that this group is showing. Erin, being the first women to win a slalom event in 41 years last season, has now backed it up with another podium result. I will be completely honest, having her first top 10 result come in the form of a win, I had expected there to be a long learning curve before she'd return to the podium. I even estimated it may take as much as two or three years before she hit that podium again.
At least, that's what I thought until I saw her, and the other girls, train slalom at B.C.'s Panorama prior to the Noram events pre-Christmas. They aren't just good, they're great. I can barely express how happy I am to be wrong about how long it would take Erin to claim her second career podium! If anything, their performances to date aren't up to what they're capable of. That's what's truly incredible and most impressive. Once these girls learn and tap into their race mindset more consistently the sky is the limit.
Many ask why I have continued to strive to return to competitive ski racing. In large part, I stayed in this sport because of these girls. Their team atmosphere, work ethic, and motivation are both inspiring and infectious.
Sunday, the men had their turn to race in Zagreb, Croatia
. The men's team, including Mike Janyk and Julien Cousineau, have had several strong seasons of racing but have struggled to find their form so far this year. For them, a podium may not be in the near future, but some solid top 30 results will do a lot for their confidence moving forward.
I expected Mike Janyk to hit the start gate in Zagreb with more confidence as he raced to claim a solid podium finish - second place - in a Europa Cup event in Chamonix, France last Thursday.
Europa Cup races are good confidence builders as they remind athletes of what it feels like to stand on the podium. At times, these events can even be harder than World Cups since the field is so large and the athletes have nothing to lose. These two elements result in some uninhibited full throttle racing.
Sadly, the race in Zagreb didn't go as hoped or planned. With no Canadian men qualifying for the second run I'm sure they are frustrated. After 4 World Cup events so far this season, they are in the midst of their worst season in over five years. However, knowing how well the team is training gives hope that their results will start to reflect their talent and abilities. The story of their season is long from over and the next month will tell the tale of how the story will end. Everything can change with one good race - we'll have our fingers crossed hoping for that successful eventuality.
1 month to go
With just under one month to go until the world will descend on Schladming, Austria for the world championships, the pressure is mounting. With the strength of our women's technical team and men's speed team, I expect the women's speed and men's tech teams will inch closer to their potential out on the hill.
This isn't to say podiums are expected by our men's technical team and women's speed team, however closing the ground between the training and racing performances should narrow. That will lead to stronger results and that always leads to exciting entertainment for the viewers. Also, don't count out the infectious nature of one side of the team being on the podium. Anything can happen on race day!
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