Saturday, February 22, 2014

Janyk finishes 16th; says it was his last Olympic race

by on Sat, Feb 22, 2014 at 11:37 AM

click to enlarge Whistler's Mike Janyk finished 16th in the men's slalom on Saturday from Sochi, then announced it was his final Olympics. - PHOTO BY PENTAPHOTO / ALPINE CANADA
  • Photo by Pentaphoto / Alpine Canada
  • Whistler's Mike Janyk finished 16th in the men's slalom on Saturday from Sochi, then announced it was his final Olympics.

Mike Janyk can leave the Olympics with his chin up, knowing that he won’t be back.

After the three-time Olympian posted a 16th-place finish in Saturday’s men’s slalom, he announced he would not be back for the 2018 Games in Pyeongchang.

“This will be my last Games,” Janyk said in a quote released via the Alpine Canada Twitter account. “I knew that going in and that emotion was special, and also a challenge to deal with.

“Everything, but the result, was everything I thought a Games could be. It was amazing.”

The 31-year-old actually posted his second-best finish of the season on Saturday, as well as his second-best result at an Olympics — his best being 13th on his home mountain during the 2010 Winter Games. His best World Cup result of the year came at Kitzbühel, where he was 14th.

Janyk sat 22nd after the opening run at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Center on Saturday and ended up posting the 12th-fastest second run. He was clearly frustrated with his finish time after the second session, but just finishing was an accomplishment on this day.

Twelve of the top-30 starters were unable to complete the second run, many confused by the unconventional set plotted by Croatian coach Ante Kostelic. So many elite slalom skiers who were within reach of the podium after one run faltered on Saturday night — Sweden’s Andre Myhrer, Germany’s Felix Neureuther, French skiers Alexis Pinturault and Jean-Baptiste Grange among them.

As Janyk said in my earlier post about him, he seems to do well on Kostelic-set courses — in fact, the result at Kitzbühel came on one of Kostelic’s tracks as well.

The tricky set ended up putting some of the other Canadians in the field at a disadvantage. Brad Spence and Trevor Philp were tied for 29th after the first run, meaning they were the first two to take on Kostelic’s course on the second session. Neither got a result, as Spence was disqualified and Philp skied out.

Canada’s last entry, Phil Brown, started his second run from outside the top 30, but battled his way up to 20th place, a nice finish to take away from his first Olympics.

First-run leader Mario Matt was able to hang on for gold, while Marcel Hirscher finally got his first Olympic medal, taking silver for a one-two finish for Austria. Norway’s Henrik Kristoffersen claimed bronze, and with U.S. phenom Mikaela Shiffrin winning the women’s event on Friday, that means two slalom medals from these Olympics went around the necks of teenagers.

Now, back to Janyk’s future plans — at the beginning of the season, I asked him if he had put a lot of thought into how much longer he’d stick with it. Nothing was set in stone, but at that time, he seemed interested in going back to the Olympics in 2018.

“I have a vision of going for another Games,” he said in November. “I would have a lot of fun doing it for the next four years after this.”

This winter hasn’t been Janyk’s best on the World Cup circuit, though he has shown more consistency this year compared to 2012-13. Still, it would appear that he’s had a change of heart over the past couple of months.

However much longer he decides to stick with it will be up to him. He’s still the best technical discipline skier the Canadian alpine team has, and it’s been that way for a very long time. You have to go back to 2006, when Thomas Grandi was still around, for the last season when Janyk wasn’t the top-ranked Canadian in slalom.

Philp and Brown represent the next generation of technical skiers for the Canadian men, and Janyk sees plenty of potential in the youngsters. He relished the role of being a mentor to them at these Games, and even though Janyk’s best racing days may be behind him, his veteran presence can only be a good thing for the inexperienced racers’ development.

Olympians like to think in quadrennials, so Janyk announcing he won’t go to Korea in 2018 makes me wonder if he has date in mind to put the racing boots away. I would expect he’ll stick around for at least next year’s world championships in Colorado.

Whatever he decides, it would just be nice to see Janyk go out on his own terms. Not every skier gets that chance, but the 2009 world championship bronze medallist has earned at least that much during his impressive 10-year World Cup career.   

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