The World Cup alpine racing season is a grind - from summer months spent training in gyms and on southern hemisphere slopes while the rest of us are drinking beer on patios, segueing into five-plus winter months spent racing and travelling around the globe. It's become such a serious business that most athletes can measure their time off from the sport in weeks, sacrificing almost everything just to have a shot to finish on the podium.
And while the 2010-2011 season may seem like a back-to-normal year for athletes after the Olympic Games, the reality is the pressure never lets up - 2011 is a world championship year, which is crucial for Canadian athletes seeking/renewing Sport Canada funding. As well, the athletes have high expectations for themselves and only a limited number of years to accomplish their goals.
All four Whistler athletes are returning to the Canadian Alpine Ski Team this season - Manuel Osborne-Paradis and Robbie Dixon are back with the men's speed team, Britt Janyk is back with the women's speed team and Michael Janyk is returning to the men's technical team.
All four athletes were in Whistler on Tuesday to take part in a Peak to Peak Gala dinner at the Roundhouse Lodge. Pique managed to catch up with three out of four of them by phone.
Mike Janyk - Becoming "the" guy
For Michael Janyk, the Olympics were a learning experience of sorts, but the biggest teaching moment of the 2009-2010 season was teammate Erik Guay winning the overall super G title.
"It was massive for us," he said. "It seemed to get swept under the rug a bit with the whole Olympic thing, but for us on the team... that was the biggest thing I've ever been involved in within Canadian ski racing. Any European will tell you the crystal globe is a big deal, it's the Stanley Cup.
"And it hasn't happened since 1982, and it's only the third one (for Canada) after Steve Podborski and Nancy Greene."
Another teaching moment was John Kucera's downhill win in the 2009 World Championships.
"We could all say, 'we won a World Championship,' and it's no coincidence that I saw my (bronze world championship) medal a few days later. Now, when we're together as a team, we can be amongst each other and know that we are the best. When you hang around the best, it raises the game for everyone else."
Janyk says he's even more driven since the Olympics, despite a disappointing result in the men's slalom.
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