For one last run, Mike Janyk was No. 1.
Taking to a World Cup slalom course for the final time, the veteran Whistler skier won the second run at Kranjska Gora, Slovenia, on Sunday, March 9 to end his impressive career on a high note.
His time of 51.93 seconds in the second session moved him from 29th place up to a final placing of 15th.
"In the middle of that final run, I was like, 'I could do this forever,'" Janyk said in a release.
The 31-year-old, who first announced his retirement to Pique days before the race, barely squeezed out a qualifying time, ranking just inside the top 30 on the first run by only .04 seconds. But the 2009 world championship bronze medallist found his old form on his blistering second run, then watched the next 12 skiers after him from the leader's box.
"After I walked into the leader's box it slowly started to sink in and I was like, 'Oh my God, what have I done?'" said the three-time Olympian. "It was really tough leading up to this week, and to get up and go again after the first run was tough.
"But to end it this way — to win the second run and be in the leader's box — that was pretty special."
France's Alexis Pinturault, the skier who eventually wrestled the lead away from Janyk, was the next-fastest racer on the second run Sunday. He finished nearly five-tenths behind the Canadian, to give a sense of how well Janyk skied in his World Cup swan song.
"It's tough going back out there when you are not skiing the way you know how," he said of trying to regroup for the second run. "A moment before (I started the second run), things went clear and it was totally calm and I saw the hill in front of me. It took two gates to get into it, and then it was like dancing."
Germany's Felix Neureuther won the race, followed by teammate Fritz Dopfer and Norway's Henrik Kristoffersen. Janyk finished 1.99 seconds off Neureuther's winning pace.
Janyk needed a big result in order to make it through to this week's World Cup finals in Lenzerheide, Switzerland, but even the top-15 finish — his second-best result this season — wasn't enough to get him there. The top 25 advanced to finals, and Janyk ended up 27th, seven points out of a qualifying spot.
Unfortunately for Janyk, some of the other skiers on the bubble, such as Norway's Sebastien Foss Solevaag and Austria's Manuel Feller, had good outings in Slovenia as well and hung onto their top-25 rankings.
Though he's not headed to Lenzerheide, Janyk was the top-ranked Canadian in men's slalom once again this season, a feat he has accomplished every year since the 2006-07 campaign. He didn't win a major race in his career — his second-place finish at Beaver Creek in December 2006 was his lone World Cup podium finish — but his consistency over 12 years on alpine skiing's top circuit was remarkable.
Janyk ended six World Cup seasons ranked in the top 20 for slalom, including a high of seventh in the winter of 2007. He made 97 World Cup starts in the discipline, turning 27 of those into top-10 results. Janyk also posted a top-20 finish in all three of his Olympic slalom races, his best coming at home in 2010, when he placed 13th in Whistler.
"His ability to always stay on task and to train with such dedication and commitment has always been an inspiration for me," said older sister Britt Janyk, who retired from the national team herself in 2011, in a release.
"Alpine skiing will miss him, but you can be sure he will still be a passionate athlete and sportsman."
Beyond continuing work with the Mike and Manny Foundation he created with fellow Whistler-trained World Cup skier Manuel Osborne-Paradis, Janyk reportedly has no immediate future plans. However, he'll be coming home for one final set of races this month, as Whistler hosts the Sport Chek Canadian Alpine Championships, running March 19 to 26. Janyk is tied with Grandi and Peter Monod for the most national slalom titles, with four apiece, and can claim the all-time lead to himself with a win.
"There are some goodbyes to say — it's sad but in a beautiful way," said Janyk. "If you can leave in pure enjoyment of the sport, that's really special."
Osborne-Paradis raced the men's downhill at Lenzerheide on Wednesday, March 12 and placed 13th, while teammate Erik Guay finished 19th. Guay ended the year ranked third for the discipline, while Osborne-Paradis finished 18th in the standings.
Both skiers will finish their World Cup seasons with the men's super-G on Thursday, March 13.
"I'm going to ski hard and hope for the best," said Osborne-Paradis. "I've got nothing to lose so I'm going to push my line and take what I've learned from (the downhill). I'll see what I can get away with."