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Locals skiers race to the top at Canadian championships

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Janyks, Hume, Risler among medalists at 2002 Pontiac GMC Cup Canadian Championships

All eyes were on Whistler last week as the top alpine skiers in the country competed for best-in-Canada honours at the 2002 Pontiac GMC Canadian Championships. Months of preparation went into the organization of this event, which brought sports media and elite athletes from across Canada to Whistler.

So naturally a storm system moved in at the last minute, cancelling downhill training runs and making life difficult for the dozens of volunteer Weasel Workers who worked overtime clearing the race courses. In the end, more than a metre of snow fell during the 10-day event, with a few sunny periods mixed in for good measure. Thanks to the efforts of the volunteers, all of the events got off the ground with only a few minor delays.

The events included members of the Canadian Alpine Ski Team (CAST), the national development team, provincial teams, as well as the top junior racers at the club level.

More than bragging rights were at stake in the championships. Race winners received $2,500 and silver and bronze medalists received $1,000 and $500 respectively.

Whistler’s own Britt Janyk won gold medals in the super G and giant slalom, was second in the slalom, and finished sixth in the downhill, to become the overall Canadian champion, as well as the national super G and GS champion.

At 21, Janyk is quickly becoming one of the Canadian Alpine Ski Team’s top World Cup prospects. She fell short of qualifying for the Olympics after a slow start this season, but went on to place well at the World Cup level and win the overall Europa Cup GS title.

"It’s nice to be racing at home," she said. "I know this hill so well, I don’t have any doubts."

After a strong finish to her international season, Janyk said she also had some momentum going into the championships. "I’ve had a lot of great results leading up to this, so I knew better than to doubt the way I was skiing. I always try to stay positive going into races, but it always helps when you’re doing well."

Her younger brother Michael Janyk, who was a member of the national development team last season, was fourth in the slalom, sixth in the super-G and fourth in the GS. He was also the top junior in all three events.

"I’ve had the experience (of being at the Canadian Championships) four times now, and it’s always a good way to see how I do," says Janyk, who is turning 20 on March 22. "It gives you confidence to race against the best, especially when you race well. You don’t get intimidated."

Although he had never raced slalom on the lower section of the Dave Murray Downhill before, Michael agrees with Britt’s assessment that it was an advantage to be able to ski at home on familiar snow.

"There’s an advantage for sure, you know where you can get a little extra speed, and where the run is going. One of the biggest advantages though is the home cooked meal, and sleeping in your own bed."

For now, Janyk’s goal is to make the national development team once again, and to get a few more starts on the World Cup. He had one start this year, and he says that helped him at the FIS and NorAm levels.

"After skiing at that calibre with the best in the world, it kind of takes the pressure off for other competitions. You know you can race with anybody, and see that the difference between, say, the NorAm and World Cup is only a little time."

Whistler’s Jeff Hume, who is on the national speed team, was 24 th in the slalom, fourth in the super-G, and third in the downhill.

His younger brother Scott Hume, who races with the B.C. Ski Team, was 10th in the slalom and 24 th in the super G.

Christina Risler, 18, who is also with the national development team, was second overall in the downhill (first junior), eighth in the super-G (third among juniors), and 14 th in the GS.

Nanaimo’s Allison Forsyth, who trained with the Whistler Mountain Ski Club, was unable to defend her national GS title for six consecutive years from an energized Britt Janyk. Forsyth fell on her side toward the bottom of her second GS run but managed to finish second, tied with Genevieve Simard.

Men’s Slalom, March 14

The first race of the championships, the men’s slalom, went to Canadian Alpine Ski Team vet Thomas Grandi, 29, of Canmore, Alberta with a time of 1:30.80 for two runs. This was his ninth career Canadian Championship title, breaking the previous record of eight titles held by "Jungle" Jim Hunter.

CAST teammate Jean-Philippe Roy, 23, who was the 2001 champion in slalom and giant slalom, took the silver medal in 1:31.12. He was followed by young gun Erik Guay, in 1:31.29 of Tremblant, Quebec. Guay is just 20 years old, but is already one of the top prospects for the national team. He went on to win two events in the championships, and was on the podium in all four disciplines.

Michael Janyk was fourth, followed by B.C. Ski Team standout Scott Anderson of Rossland, B.C.

From the Whistler camp, Scott Hume was 10 th , Ryan Oughtred was 12 th , Brian Bennett 21 st , Jeff Hume 24 th , James Finlayson 34 th , Robbie Dixon 46 th , Manuel Osborne-Paradis 49 th , Chris Bellamy 53 rd , Marcus Waring 61 st, , Christopher McCullough 65 th , and Chris Colpitts 73 rd .

Women’s Slalom, March 15

Genevieve Simard, who was named the World Cup rookie of the year this season, was solid in the slalom on Friday to win her first national championship.

The 21-year-old from Val Morin, Quebec, literally bounced back up from a spill on the first run and stayed on course to remain in contention. With a half-second deficit for her second run, she went all out to post the fastest second run of the day.

"I leaned in and fell on my hip, then I jumped back and barely made the second gate," she said. "Britt and Alli were ahead of me. I knew I had to put down one really good run. And I felt good. When slalom is going fast, it feels effortless."

Whistler’s Britt Janyk, who was in the lead after the first run, had to settle for a silver medal, followed closely by Allison Forsyth.

Sophie Splawinski from the Mont Tremblant Team, who is just 16-years-old, finished in fourth place to win the junior slalom title.

Also from Whistler were Rachel Walker in 43 rd , Charlotte Whitney in 55 th and Jennifer Bertram in 56 th .

Men’s Super G, March 16

Erik Guay surprised everyone with a victory in Saturday’s super-G, airing past Olympians Darin McBeath and Thomas Grandi to his first national title.

"I let it go a little too much on top and almost missed a gate," said Guay, who mastered a challenging course with technical turns and a jump where competitors were clearing 40 metres in the air. "My legs were burning at the bottom, but you just dig deep and it pays off. Canadian champion, eh? My friends will like that."

Whistler’s Jeff Hume was fourth, and Michael Janyk was once again the top junior in sixth place overall.

Other finishes for Whistler skiers include national team member Ryan Oughtred in seventh, Whistler Mountain Ski Club racer Brian Bennett in eighth, James Finlayson in 22 nd , Scott Hume in 24 th , Manuel Osborne-Paradis in 27 th , Marcus Waring in 47 th , Robbie Dixon in 51 st and Blake Jamieson in 57 th . Ben Chaddock, Trevor Controy, Chris Collpitts and Christopher McCullough also raced.

Women’s Super G, March 16

Britt Janyk earned her first national title in the super-G, this time edging out teammate Genevieve Simard by 0.29 seconds for the top spot.

"I skied solid and picked up some speed in the key sections," said Janyk. "I skied the top really well and my goal was to get speed in the turns and carry that on to the Timing Flats. I’m not that big so I need to have some speed going into that," she added.

She also had a plan heading into a section of course known as The Sewer, where competitors were having trouble with one gate. "I saw that in inspection and I think I’ve just skied is so many times I know how it runs through there, wherever it’s set, it can be pretty tough.

"I got the report over the radio from (coach) Jim (Pollock) and we talked about it so I knew it was there. I think that was key, too. I skied that really well. I nailed that."

Anne-Marie Lefrancois of Charlesbourg, Quebec, who skis on the national team, won the bronze medal.

Sophie Splawinski of the Quebec Team was fourth once again, and the top junior for the second race in a row.

Whistler’s Christina Risler, who skis with the national development team, was 12 th . From the B.C. Ski Team, Jennifer Bertram and Rachel Walker were 22 nd and 36 th , while Kayla Benbow, Anastasia Skryabina and Charlotte Whitney of the Whistler Mountain Ski Club were 23 rd , 24 th , 28 th and 37 th .

Men’s Downhill, March 18

Erik Guay established himself as a leading candidate for the Canadian speed team next year with a convincing win on the Dave Murray Downhill, finishing four-tenths of a second ahead of Calgary’s Darin McBeath.

"At events like the Canadian Championships, Olympics, or World Championships, fourth place doesn’t count for anything. For me it’s a medal or nothing," said an enthusiastic Guay, who is shaping up to be the next Crazy Canuck. "I went in with that kind of confidence today. I’d be happier to ski my best, ski really hard and go off course, than to hold back and finish fifth or sixth." Guay won the overall NorAm downhill title this season, edging out teammate Jeff Hume.

Hume, 22, was third in the championships, edging out Canada’s Edi Podivinsky who was racing the last downhill of his career.

"I don’t know if I’ll really miss this until I watch the first World Cup race on T.V. and see all my friends pop out of the start gate," said the 32-year-old. "I’ve lived that life for 10 years and I’m ready to take the next step."

Podivinsky, who was only the second Canadian male downhiller, behind Steve Podborski, to win an Olympic medal, took the bronze medal at the Lillehammer Olympics in 1994.

Manuel Osborne-Paradis, a Whistler Mountain Ski Club racer who is on the B.C. Ski Team, was an impressive seventh. James Finlayson of Whistler, who is on the comeback trail after taking some time off for health reasons, finished eighth.

Also for the WMSC, Brian Bennett was 13 th . Of the other Whistler skiers, Michael Janyk was 26 th , Robbie Dixon 30 th , Marcus Waring 39 th , Blake Jamieson 46 th , Ben Chaddock 51 st , and Trevor Conroy 61 st .

Nikolay Skriabin, who divides his time between Whistler and the Ukraine, and who represented Ukraine at the Olympics and Canadian Championships, was 45 th .

Women’s Downhill, March 18

With defending champion Melanie Turgeon out of the running with an ear infection, the women’s downhill was a wide open race.

Anne-Marie Lefrancois, the defending super G champion, filled the gap nicely with a blistering run that was almost two-and-a-half seconds faster than the second place finisher, Whistler’s Christina Risler.

"I was dialed in and gave the course respect," said the 18-year-old Risler. "I had all this anger built up inside from a disappointing result (eighth) in super G, and I just had a ripper today."

Sara-Maude Boucher won the bronze medal.

Also from Whistler, Britt Janyk was sixth, Charlotte Whitney 18 th , Jennifer Bertram 21 st , Kayla Benbow 23 rd and Anatastasia Skryabina 37 th .

Women’s Giant Slalom, March 19

It wasn’t a perfect day but it had a perfect ending for Whistler’s Britt Janyk. She was in second place after her first run, behind defending champion Allison Forsyth, and her second run didn’t exactly go by the book.

"I was all over the place," she said. "I took one gate out with the whole left side of my body, and messed up here and there on the way down. When I crossed the finish line I had no idea what was going to happen. Usually I know if I skied my best, whether my best was good enough for first or sixth place that day, but this time I had no idea."

It turned out that Forsyth had some troubles of her own on the course. "I made a huge mistake, pretty much crashed," said the 23-year-old defending champion. "I was going very fast and totally laid it over sideways. I was fortunate there was a huge snow bank on the side of the hill that I could rebound off. To be honest I’m shocked I still ended up in second."

Forsyth was seventh in the GS at the Olympics, and finished seventh overall on the World Cup GS circuit.

Genevieve Simard tied Forsyth for second in the GS.

For Whistler, Christina Risler was 14 th , Rachel Walker 19 th , Charlotte Whitney 37 th , and Kayla Benbow 55 th .

Men’s Giant Slalom, March 20

Jean-Philippe Roy of Rimouski, Quebec, won his first national GS title on Wednesday, edging past former Whistler ski club racer Ryan Oughtred of Kelowna. Julien Cousineau of Lachute, Quebec, finished third.

Whistler’s Michael Janyk won his third junior title of the championships, beating Ryan Semple of Montreal and Whistler’s Scott Hume to the finish line.