If the opening NorAm races are any indication and they should be a fair barometer since many of the best skiers in the world were taking part Canadian women are going to be bringing home some World Cup hardware this winter.
And Whistlers Britt Janyk may be leading the way.
Janyk, the reigning Europa Cup GS champion and Canadian champion in GS, super G and combined, finished second and fourth in two NorAm giant slaloms last week. She was also 10 th in a NorAm slalom, as national teams gathered in Colorado prior to this weeks World Cup races in Park City, Utah.
Janyk won the first run in both NorAm giant slaloms, held at Loveland, Colorado. In the first race, Nov. 13, she held a half second lead going into the second run but couldnt hold off Austrian Nicole Hosp, winner of the opening World Cup race last month in Soelden, Austria. Janyk wound up second, .15 seconds behind Hosp. Sylvia Berger of Austria was fourth, followed by Canadians Allison Forsyth and Genevieve Simard. Gail Kelly, of Ontario, was 10 th .
"Im happy with second place in a really strong field," said Janyk, 22. "It gives my confidence a bit of a boost to have two strong runs in a race with a lot of World Cup women."
Simard was 14 th after the first run but absolutely blitzed the course in the second run to move up to fifth.
"We all know about our potential," said Simard. "Weve used that phrase enough and now its time to deliver. We stepped it up. Today was very much a World Cup field and we were the strongest nation out there. Im happy personally, happy for Britt and Alli and Gail both skied strong."
The next day Simard used another strong second run to move from 12 th to first and claim NorAm gold. Germanys Martina Ertl was second and American Caroline Lalive third.
Janyk fell to fourth after winning the first run, while Forsyth did not finish her second run after sitting sixth following the first run.
Sophie Splawinski was 13 th and Kelly 15 th .
"The second run is a second chance to get it together and do it right," said Simard. "I was a little bit angry after the first run and there was nothing for me to lose. I risked it all. The fastest ski racer is the one who is able to take risks and get out of their comfort zone."
Simard, 22 of Val Morin, Que., said she struggled to find her rhythm in the second run, but when things fell together they were perfect.
"Right out of the start I couldn't get the skis to do what I wanted them to do and then I really punched it at the end. The last pitch was really good, I felt supple in my legs and smooth on the snow.
"We're all there technically, we've just got to risk it," said Simard. "I'm super confident that if I can do two runs like this afternoon I'm right up there in any field. It shows in our whole team's attitude, we're capable of doing something great."
On Sunday the NorAm circuit moved to Winter Park, Colorado for a slalom. Janyk again led the Canadian women, finishing 10 th . Forsyth was 18 th , Simard 21 st and Vanderbeek 26 th .
The slalom was won by Croatian Janica Kostelic. Ertl was second and Laure Pequegnot of France was third.
Pequegnot and Kostelic were first and second respectively in a final NorAm slalom at Loveland on Monday, Nov. 18. Many of the top technical skiers, including Janyk, Forsyth, Simard, Kelly and Splawinski, skipped the race to prepare for World Cup races at Park City. Kelly VanderBeek, a member of the senior speed team, was the top Canadian in Mondays race, finishing 28 th . Montreals Stephanie Ouellet Decoste was the only other Canadian to finish both runs, and wound up 32 nd .
The womens World Cup circuit resumed in Park City on Nov. 21 with a GS. The race was after Pique went to press.