Last season had its share of ups and downs for Mike Janyk, but unfortunately for the Whistler skier, there were more of the latter to go around.
The slalom specialist's 2012-13 World Cup campaign got off to a disastrous start when he failed to earn any points from the first five races of the winter — unable to qualify for a second run in the first two, unable to finish the next three. The year ended with Janyk ranked 35th in the discipline, his lowest placement in the men's slalom standings since 2008. It was just the second year out of nine on tour where he wasn't among the top 25 skiers racing in the World Cup final.
But there were also encouraging signs late in the season when he began to string together a bunch of solid results. He hit the top 15 in his last two World Cup races and also added a 14th-place finish at the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in Schladming, Austria.
It was also there at Schladming where Janyk put on one of the most impressive performances of his career in the team event. He nearly stepped onto a world championship podium for the second time in his career, beating out slalom ace Felix Neureuther head-to-head in a bronze-medal battle with Germany that Canada ultimately lost by .03 seconds on a tiebreaker.
Now, as he prepares for the 2013-14 season to kick off, Janyk isn't looking back on last year at all. The successes, the failures — it's all irrelevant, as far as the 31-year-old is concerned.
"I'm really focused on what I'm doing now," Janyk told Pique on Nov. 4 before boarding a plane to Austria in advance of his World Cup season-opener this weekend.
"I spent a lot of time in the past recapping and trying to build off another season and (thinking), 'OK, where did this come from.' For sure, there's time to break things down and to see a pattern of where it's been going, but when it comes down to it, it's all about now and where I am now.
"If I try to hold onto the good aspects, that means I'm going to have to hold onto the bad aspects, too."
Janyk's first race of this Olympic year takes place Sunday, Nov. 17 at Levi, Finland, and the Canadian technical team's leader is going into the season feeling revitalized after a summer full of transition.
"We've got a new team, new coaching staff, I have a new service man, so there's been some change," he said. "These young guys have been coming up for a couple of years, and now we're all one team and they're bringing good energy. And I'm really enjoying putting the work down.
"I'm enjoying seeing where I can push it. I'm enjoying trying to go as fast as possible. So from there we see, as our coach says, where we draw the line at the end of the season."
Martin Rufener, who helped guide Switzerland's men's team to several years of success, was hired as the Canadian men's head coach this season, while Massimo "Max" Carca and Paolo De Florian were brought in from the Italian national team to look after a technical program that has struggled to produce the same results realized by the Canadian speed team in recent seasons.
Janyk said he's been very pleased with what the new coaches bring to the table.
"These guys are really simple," he said. "We stick with the same things, the same approaches and add on little pieces here and there, but it's a good vibe. I trust them, which is really what it comes down to."
Though Janyk didn't have anything bad to say about the previous coaching staff, he agreed that "it was a great time for change all around."
"It brings new energy, new life," he said. "It re-motivates you, and especially as I'm coming into a decade on the World Cup circuit, anytime you can be fresh and new is always a good thing."
Without the anticipation of an Olympics at home hanging over him this season, Janyk said he's not feeling the same kind of pressure to perform compared to 2010. Another thing he's hoping will work out differently for him this winter is a trend he's noticed in past Olympic seasons.
"My first two Olympics, my results were generally the worst results of my season," laughed Janyk, who was 17th at the 2006 Games in Italy and 13th in Whistler four years ago. "So I'm looking to swap that — hoping to make it my best result of the year."
But for the 2009 world championship bronze medallist, results are hardly the only thing that will determine whether it's been a productive season at the winter's end. When asked what will make a successful 2013-14 campaign for Janyk, his answer is simple.
"If my skiing has been exciting," he said. "If I can bring that energy that makes us all want to believe that we can do anything. Whatever result that turns into ... that'll be an absolute success for me."
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