Alpine nationals to mark Janyk's farewell 

World Cup stars, up-and-coming racers to battle for Canadian crowns

click to enlarge PHOTO BY PENTAPHOTO / COURTESY OF ALPINE CANADA - last hurrah Mike Janyk will race the slalom, GS and possibly the special dual slalom scheduled for March 22 to close out his career at the Sport Chek Canadian Alpine and Para-alpine Championships in Whistler this week.
  • photo by pentaphoto / courtesy of alpine canada
  • last hurrah Mike Janyk will race the slalom, GS and possibly the special dual slalom scheduled for March 22 to close out his career at the Sport Chek Canadian Alpine and Para-alpine Championships in Whistler this week.

Winning the second run at Kranjska Gora, Slovenia, was a special way for Mike Janyk to close the book on his World Cup career. But there's still one other way that the Whistler skier can go out on top.

Janyk will get between the gates for one final set of races at home for the Sport Chek Canadian Alpine and Para-alpine Championships, which officially got underway with downhill training runs on Wednesday, March 19.

The 31-year-old shares the record of all-time Canadian men's slalom titles with Thomas Grandi and Peter Monod, as each have four apiece. So a win on Tuesday, March 25 would give Janyk the mark all to himself.

"I'm going ahead with the intention of having one last go, and I'm looking forward to making the young guys work for it," he said. "We'll see what comes to me.

"I don't know if (holding the record alone) has much meaning in the larger picture. Maybe a little something between Tom and I that we can share over a beer at some point, something light like that. But it'd be cool."

Janyk, several other skiers from the Canadian World Cup team, and up-and-coming racers from across the country will be battling it out for the national discipline titles on Whistler Mountain until March 26. The event will also give Janyk a chance to have some fun with teammates and supporters at home as he says goodbye to the sport after an 11-year World Cup career.

"It's pretty special, finishing here in Whistler," said the three-time Olympian. "I'm looking forward to the week, to share it with friends and family and the community that's supported me."

Janyk announced he'd be retiring two weeks ago, and went on to post the electrifying second run at Kranjska Gora that nobody could touch. Beating the best in the world in a farewell race might be enough to convince some racers to put retirement plans on hold. But Janyk said he's had few second thoughts about hanging up his racing boots.

"It was actually cool how it came out here before Kranjska," he said. "It gave me a chance to hear from some people, and get to chat about it with people around the ski world. Then it made that race in Kranjska that much cooler.

"(I'm) just soaking in Whistler. I'm almost seeing it through different eyes, coming home for good."

The men's slalom closes out the Canadian Championships on Wednesday, March 26, along with the women's giant slalom.

MANNY HOME TO DEFEND DH TITLE

Manuel Osborne-Paradis returned to the mountain he grew up on last year to win the men's downhill title. He'll be the favourite to win another one on Saturday, March 22, especially with a couple of his World Cup teammates unavailable.

Erik Guay is home awaiting the birth of his third child, and Olympic bronze medallist Jan Hudec underwent back surgery this week, but the rest of the national team's racers will be in the mix, including Whistler's Conrad and Morgan Pridy.

Downhill training began Wednesday, and a wide-open women's race will get the schedule started on Friday, March 21. Marie-Michele Gagnon, who finished the World Cup season ranked 13th overall, will only be racing the technical events, and defending champ Larisa Yurkiw is recovering from injury, so the women's speed races will be up for grabs.

On Saturday afternoon, national team members will be racing a dual slalom outside the GLC at 3:30 p.m., followed by an autograph session and après party inside. The competitors haven't been finalized for the event yet, but Janyk said he hopes to be racing.

The women's super-G goes Sunday, March 23, followed by the men's on Monday, March 24. The final two days wrap up with the technical events.

Though the World Cup regulars can keep it light and have a little more fun this week, the Canadian Championships are important races for some of the younger skiers trying to work their way up.

"There are going to be big racers like Manny and Mike there, so those will be good races to really attack and see what happens," said B.C. Ski Team racer Broderick Thompson, who's coming in hot after a career-best finish during last week's Nor-Am Cup finals. "It's a really great opportunity for scoring FIS points... We want to do our best to be as close as we can, or beat them."

The Whistler native was fifth in the Nor-Am men's super-G at Nakiska last week, beating World Cup winners like Steven Nyman and Matteo Marsaglia, and finishing just 0.79 seconds back of race victor Dustin Cook, the top Canadian in the Nor-Am standings this year. Thompson also had a top-10 finish in the super combined at Nor-Am finals and will be racing with some confidence at home this week.

"It's been a long, tiring and fun season," said the 19-year-old. "I'm excited for these last couple races."

PARALYMPIANS TO BATTLE FOR CANADIAN CROWNS

Whistler will also be welcoming the para-alpine nationals this year, with many of the top racers having just returned from Sochi. That includes local skiers Matt Hallat and Caleb Brousseau, and Canadian Paralympic flag bearer Josh Dueck.

"I'm really looking forward to nationals this year," said Dueck, who comes into this week's races as the defending men's GS sit-ski champ. "I'm looking forward to sharing the excitement with all of the up-and-coming athletes, and also to connecting with the entire Alpine Canada family."

The men's and women's slaloms will be contested on Sunday, and the GS titles will be decided on Tuesday, though Nor-Am Cup races are also scheduled for the Monday and Wednesday.

Hallat, Dueck and 2010 Paralympian Morgan Perrin will also be hosting a camp for aspiring racers on Friday and Saturday. Their Redefining Limits camp is aimed at helping athletes understand what it takes to make the jump to IPC-level competition.

Visit www.wmsc.info or www.alpinecanada.org for the week's full schedules and more event info.

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