Mike Janyk remembers what it was like to ski at home during the 2010 Olympics.
Coming into those Games, he was one year removed from a world championship bronze in men's slalom and had felt the hopes of his hometown weighing on him as he prepared to race.
But perhaps even more, he felt the pressure he was putting on himself to stand on the podium.
"For Vancouver and Whistler, it was so much," Janyk told Pique earlier this month while home in the resort. "It was crazy. I was trying to take in as much as I could, but the emotions were insane.
"It was my home hill, I was skiing really fast then and had a good chance at a medal. Coming into here, it was almost like if I didn't get a medal, it was a complete failure, even though I was trying to tell myself that 'This is so cool, once in a lifetime opportunity to race in your hometown at the Olympics.'"
After being frustrated by his 13th-place finish in 2010, Janyk resolved to find a new mental approach to racing — to find it within himself to ski free of the pressure and fear that has plagued him in the start gate at times throughout his 10 years of World Cup racing, and to re-connect with why he's out there racing in the first place.
"I said, 'I can't compete like this anymore. There's got to be a place of total freedom,'" he said.
"It's to find that true place inside you that wants to go your absolute fastest, but not in a need to go, 'I have to do this or else I'll be a failure,' way. I've carried a lot of that in my career, but I've had moments without that in skiing, and those moments stuck with me as the most powerful experiences I've ever had in ski racing, and the most freeing."
Finding that place hasn't been so easy for the 31-year-old as he heads into his third Olympics. Janyk has no doubt in his ability to be fast — "I know how to ski, it's all in there," he said — but what's been tough for him at times has been getting that speed to come out on race day.
"My racing has really not been at a level like I'd hoped going in. My training's been really great, really fast, but that mindset in the start gate hasn't been there," he said.
After racking up a bunch of top-five finishes during the 2011 season, Janyk hasn't been able to post a World Cup top-10 finish over the past two winters. But the veteran racer said that's not necessarily a bad thing for him as he prepares to compete in Sochi.
"It's almost a place of surrender, where I've accepted this is the place where I'm at," said Janyk. "Before the season started, you'd hope that you've been building up, having a podium before (Sochi) or some top-fives, but none of that's there. So I'm in a total place of peace and acceptance of where I'm at.
"The beautiful flipside of me not having any phenomenal results this year is me being able to see that. That's a huge gift in itself, and going into the Games, I almost feel more fulfilled than I've ever felt before in my career, and more fortunate."
There was a medal at the front of Janyk's mind in 2010, but when asked what his goal result would be at these Olympics, the Whistler Mountain Ski Club product said he feels like he's succeeded by giving himself a chance to ski in a third Winter Games.
"I would have answered that with numbers in the past in my career. But it's been my experience in all my life that it always ends up being an empty feeling when you (evaluate) your work by some external success," he said.
"The greatest feeling of success is knowing who I am going into it and the choices that I've made to approach my skiing and my career — whatever comes from that is a success."
The men's slalom is set for Saturday, Feb. 22. The first run takes place at 4:45 a.m. PST, followed by the second run at 8:15.
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