Going up the downhill
Canadian alpine skier Britt Janyk had a breakout year last season—what does she plan for an encore?
When Britt Janyk stepped onto the podium at the Lake Louise World Cup event last season, that's when she knew she was going to have a good year.
"To be able to (reach the podium) for my first time here at home, in front of the home crowd here in Canada was just a great feeling," she told CBCSports.ca.
Janyk finished third in the downhill at Lake Louise, becoming the first Canadian woman to reach the podium at the World Cup stop.
And when she followed that up with a downhill win at Aspen a week later, it set the tone for the rest of her year.
"I had no expectations," she said. "(But) after that first race of the season I no longer had that mindset-I had expectations going into every race, because I knew I could be on the podium.
"It was a refreshing feeling."
The final tally for the 2007-08 season? Two podiums, 12 top-10 finishes, and a third-place showing in the final World Cup downhill standings for the 28-year-old speed specialist from North Vancouver, B.C.
"It was a great feeling, and something I've always wanted to achieve," Janyk said. "By all accounts, it was breakout year for her on the circuit.
So how does she top it?
"I think having a taste of it last year, I quickly realized that I enjoyed being on top and fighting for that top spot," she said. "That is really what drove me this training season. To fight, work harder, train a little bit more on snow and off snow. Now that I know I can be there, I'll definitely strive for that every race."
Stepping it up is key for Janyk and the rest of the Canadian team, says coach Rob Boyd, because they're not going to sneak up on the other teams anymore.
"The biggest challenge (for Britt) will probably be the competition," Boyd said. "They all know that the Canadians are working very hard, we've got an Olympics in our backyard here, and the competition knows that they've got to step it up too."
Janyk set the tone for the speed team's season last year with her red-hot start, said Boyd. It ended with seven total podiums for the female speedsters and three Canadians in the top 20 of the overall standings.
With a mix of hungry young skiers and experienced veterans on the squad, Boyd says Janyk adds a calming presence to the group.
"You never see her fly off the handle. She's really brought a stable backbone and a good solid direction for the rest of the team. She's that solid go-to person when somebody is straying too far off the path."
And when it comes to helping teammates, it's not just a one-way street. As the veterans show the young ones the ins and outs of the circuit, Janyk says the rookies in turn help keep her and the other top skiers sharp.
"The younger girls are really looking, listening and learning," she said. "But they're also pushing us because they have a real raw energy, and I find we can really feed off of that.
"We have a great time together."
And with the 2010 Olympics coming up, Janyk is keeping one eye fixed on Vancouver.
"It's definitely on my mind," she said. "Because this season is almost like a great practice run.
"The better we do this year coming into 2010, the more pressure we'll have, which is great-I think we're building in a good way." Janyk said. "You can never say what's going to happen in 2010, but we're putting in the sweat and I think it's going to come out with some great results."