The Europa Cup ski race series is widely recognized as the most competitive race tour outside of the World Cup if you can make it there, you can make it in the big leagues.
Whistlers Britt Janyk has definitely made it, becoming the first Canadian in eight years to win an overall Europa Cup title last week.
In five Europa Cup appearances the 21-year-old has three medals, including two gold medals, and three other top five finishes. She was first and fifth in Abetone, Italy, first and third at St. Sebastien, Austria, and fifth at Arosa, Switzerland.
Janyk earned 371 points for her efforts, and finished four points ahead of Nicole Hosp of Austria, even though she opted not to compete at the final Europa Cup GS race on Monday. She also finished 13 th overall on the Europa Cup tour.
"It was a nice surprise winning the title," said Janyk, who is home in Whistler training for the Pontiac GMC Canadian Championships, where she will race in all disciplines.
"It wasnt a goal when I went into the season, but it feels good to be on top of the European circuit, being a North American."
Although she started slowly on the World Cup circuit this year, Janyk turned it around before the Olympics with a number of strong finishes including a fifth in a combined event. She credits her experience on the Europa Cup for helping her on the World Cup level.
"What I really got out of Europa Cup is the realization that each race is just another race, and that helped me to handle a lot of the pressure thats on the World Cup. The important thing is to have fun, and know that theres going to be good days and bad days," Janyk said.
"Its such a mental sport, and the Europa Cup helped to get my race head together."
After spending more than four months on the road racing, Janyk is happy to be home for a little while. She was even able to fit a little recreational powder skiing in between training sessions for the Canadian championships.
"Every race, Im going out there looking to win, and I feel I can ski strong in every event. Its important to do well, but theres not as much pressure as in other races and Im looking forward to having fun with my teammates. I love to ski on this hill."
Following the Canadian championships, Janyk will take some time off to relax before training resumes in May at Sunshine Village. She hopes to carry her momentum on the Europa Cup and World Cup circuits through training into next year.
"This gives me a lot of confidence that I will be able to take with me into World Cup next season," she said. "It shows that Im on top of the European circuit, and there are a lot of World Cup girls who race there."
She also received a vote of confidence from Joze Sparovec, the vice president of athletics for Alpine Canada Alpin.
"This is a great accomplishment for Britt. It proves that shes one of the best ski racers of her age in the world. A lot of Europa Cup winners excel their next season in World Cup and well look for good things from Britt at the Canadian Championships and in the World Cup next season."
The last Canadian athlete to win an overall Europa Cup title was Melanie Turgeon of Quebec in 1994. She won the overall title as an 18-year-old.