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Janyk making the most of retirement

Slalom skier taking it easy in his first few free months

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Talk with anyone about Whistler's own Mike Janyk and the stories told would be of his slalom success, the three trips to the Olympics and his desire to share his knowledge with others.

What might not come up is his foray into stand-up comedy or the great joy he takes in writing.

Now, with his ski racing career in the rearview mirror Janyk, 32, is finally getting to take time for himself and explore "retirement."

When reflecting on his career, what stands out most are the highs and lows.

During some of the latter times, overwhelmed by the stresses of competition, he admitted he couldn't wait to retire. But he kept competing, though, representing Canada at the Winter Olympic Games in 2006, 2010 and 2014. He also won bronze at the 2009 World Championships, the first-ever medal in slalom for a Canadian at the event.

Even when he should have been brimming with confidence, Janyk said he fought himself in his own head. One of those moments is etched in his mind: it was in 2007 when he was enjoying one of his best seasons. He was driving to a competition in Garmisch, Germany, having done well in his previous race, and ended up finishing fourth in Garmisch. But that strong result did nothing to allay his anguish especially as the top competition in the world was coming to his hometown in three short years.

"The pressure, the nerves were going to swallow me," he said, recalling the memory over coffee this week in Whistler. "I was like 'I'm not strong enough to handle what ski racing is and the pressure of competition.'"

Janyk, who first achieved the national team level by being named to the development team in 2000, would normally be gearing up for the World Cup season to begin at this time of the year. Instead he is coming to terms with the peace off the competition slopes reminding himself that he achieved his greatest goal — to compete at the Olympics — not once but three times.

These days, he's taking time to refocus.

"I'm doing nothing as much as possible," he said. "The people from the ski world who are ex-racers say to stay busy around this time.

"I don't know if I enjoy it, but I find it's super powerful to stay in the nothingness, the unknown."

The only way Janyk can really claim to be doing nothing is to frame it in a relative sense for a highly competitive athlete. He still remains involved in the sport, as he helps to run Mike & Manny Foundation for young people with former national teammate Manuel Osborne-Paradis. The camp partners with Big Brothers of Greater Vancouver to provide ski days for group members.

"I'm inspired to grow that and see where that can go," he said.

Janyk also runs summits on ski racing for ski clubs across the country sharing his story, working with young athletes for two days and with coaches for another. And he sits on the International Ski Federation's athletes' commission as the men's alpine skiing representative.

And taking a completely different approach, he's taking time to explore creative pursuits such as stand-up comedy. Janyk, who said he wrote his first bit when he was 18, has performed twice recently at open-mic nights at the Crystal Lounge.

"It was super scary, almost like competing in the Olympics but less ramifications — or maybe the same amount," he chuckled. "(The first time), I was super nervous and thought 'I don't see my friends here, I'm going to turn around and go home.' Then I turn around and one of my friends was there."

Instead of drawing directly from his athletic career, Janyk said his material comes from "the pains and the struggles of life."

"They're things we all feel, and it's OK to feel them," he said. "I think comedy brings a cool life to that."

Janyk began journalling five years ago, and writing became "incredibly therapeutic" for him.

"Ski racing, sport, in the end became competition and felt confining sometimes, writing became total freedom," he said.

There were, of course, moments of freedom on the slopes where he was able to free his mind and ride down the hill.

Now, though, the results, in and of themselves, fade away and what remains are the feelings of joy he experienced with family, friends and coaches.

"If you can't share your successes with anyone, it becomes pretty hollow," he said.

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