Whistler's Mike Janyk has proven time and time again that he has what it takes to be one of the top slalom skiers in the world. He regularly posts fast runs and splits, but has struggled to put two of those runs together.
In a recent slalom at Madonna di Campiglio on Dec. 18, Janyk had one of those days. He was leading the splits in the first run before he straddled a gate, earning an automatic disqualification. While he was disappointed, it was further proof of what he's capable of.
"The bad news is I straddled. The good news is that I attacked," said Janyk, who had a substantial lead in the splits before his error. "I know the skier I am — I've got to put it behind me.
"There's fire in there — I feel like I'm myself again. I got the green light back on top. I can be there. I am starting to believe again."
That brings to three the number of racers where Janyk hasn't made it to the second run out of three World Cup events this season. He has six more chances at that level, including some courses where he's had good results over the years.
"I feel like I'm so close. It's going to happen. I have the speed, I have the technique and the mental capability," he said.
Julien Cousineau also went out in his first run, while Brad Spence, returning from an injury, opted to sit the race out.
Marcel Hirscher of Austria won the race by almost 1.7 seconds, followed by Felix Neureuther of Germany and Naoki Yuasa of Japan. American Ted Ligety, the guy to beat so far this season, was ninth.
The women's technical team was in Are, Sweden, this past week for giant slalom and slalom races. In the slalom on Dec. 20, Erin Mielzynski placed fifth overall after two solid runs. It was the best result for the women's team this season.
"Fifth is great, but when there's one or two of us on the podium that will be even better," said Meilzynski, who last season became the first Canadian woman since 1971 to win a World Cup slalom race. "Just seeing how close we are in sections of runs, (the team) can't wait for the day when everything comes together and it's our day. If (Marie-Michele Gagnon) had finished, she was really fast and Britt's (Brittany Phelan) right in there."
Mielzynksi said her day started well and she managed to deal with the pressure going into the second run.
"My first run felt good right out of the start," she said. "It just felt solid and balanced, and that's kind of the feeling I crave whenever I step into a pair of skis. I felt a lot of pressure and I felt a lot of emotion after Aspen (where she did not finish) and I also straddled here (in Are) last year. I wanted to focus on how I've been training.
"I tried to stay calm and push everything else out of my mind."
This was the third race in a row that Gagnon did not finish, although she has been Canada's most consistent skier in recent years and earned her first career World Cup medal — a bronze in slalom — last season.
As for Phelan, she came into this season looking for her first top 30, and now has three to her credit including her 22nd place result at Are. "I would have liked to have been there (in leaders' corner) longer but... I've had a really good start to the season," she said. "All summer I've been training with Mitch (Gagnon) and Erin and I'm starting to break through on the World Cup. It's pretty exciting."
Whistler's Jim Pollock, the head coach for the women's technical team, said the team is on track.
"We have the speed to win, but we just have to keep working at it," he said. "Today is confirmation that we are very close and we are on the right track. Everybody knows what they can do. We are very close now and we will keep pushing — we will get there."
Mikaela Shiffrin of the U.S. took the win, followed by Frida Hansdotter of Sweden and Tina Maze of Slovenia.
In the opening giant slalom race, Marie-Pier Prefontaine was the only Canadian to get a second run after Gagnon was disqualified, placing 25th.