The world may know Britt Janyk as one of Canada's top alpine ski racers, but to sister Stephanie, she will always be a close friend.
The two grew up skiing together, both in North Vancouver and Whistler, as well as getting into the kind of antics common among siblings. Today, a week before her sister races in her first Olympic Games, that sisterly bond remains palpable as Stephanie reminisces about how she desperately tried to hang out with Britt and her friends when they were in high school - and how she used to secretly keep close tabs on her older sister's adolescent love life.
Over the past few years, keeping in touch hasn't always been easy, with Britt's intense ski schedule seeing her constantly jumping from one ski area to another for competitions and training, says Stephanie. But this year Britt moved back to British Columbia, allowing the girls to catch up all the time.
"I have discovered my sister a bit more and the emotions she has gone through while on the road," says Stephanie, who lives in downtown Vancouver and attends Emily Carr University. "It's tough for her sometimes. If you think about it, when you go into a sport, all of a sudden you have coaches and teammates and you are travelling all over the world with this group. That is your life. It's a totally different world and the emotions that come with that are kind of interesting."
Despite the huge success Britt has achieved in the world of ski racing, Stephanie affectionately describes her sister as the same person she knew from high school. She has the same heart and she is still close to all her friends who knew her before she was on the Canadian Olympic team.
"I was over at one of her friends' apartments the other day and we all went out for drinks," says Stephanie. "It was so cool to see all of them. It is such a support. It is nice to have your really old friends still be there for you from before you started ski racing."
And that family love will be ever-present throughout the 2010 Winter Olympics in Whistler, when Britt competes on the Franz's course that is just minutes away from her family's home in Creekside. Stephanie will be volunteering alongside her mother and two uncles as a slipper for the women's alpine ski races. All four of them will be cheering loudly when Britt flashes down the mountain.
Stephanie says she has always believed in Britt and her brother Michael, who is competing in the Olympic slalom. Since they were kids, Britt and Michael have always been determined and they have thrown their hearts into every sport they participated in, including gymnastics, soccer, softball and volleyball.
"They definitely have that fire, that athletic drive, within them," she says. "Also, what helps is the fact that my brother and sister are decently humble about what they do. They are very respectful of their support and they are respectful that some days things can go wrong."
Britt's mother Andree also speaks warmly about her daughter's down-to-earth qualities.
She has lots of great friends and remains very devoted and connected to them, says Andree. Britt is also very appreciative of the time her ski coaches have given to her over the years.
And family is always paramount for the Olympic gold medal hopeful, says Andree.
"We were pretty much a team," says Andree with a laugh. "We had so much fun together on the skill hill, and we really did enjoy all those early years as a family. And now, everyone comes home and the first thing they say is, 'Let's have family fun time.' Everyone wants to go skiing together!"
Behind Britt's smile, she also has a fiercely competitive side, says Andree. And that spark has driven Britt to win a World Cup downhill race in Aspen, Colorado in 2007, among other things.
Although Britt was always serious about the sport, her former coach Jordan Williams thinks things really started taking shape when she was a teenager and the Whistler Mountain Ski Club started expanding its horizons.
"We started venturing out into the world and looking at the world of ski racing rather than how we can do our little part in our small valley," says Williams.
He believes there are three words that always seem to surround a champion: determination, diligence and perseverance.
Britt, Williams says with pride, has those qualities in spades.
"I am really proud of what she has accomplished as far as one of the coaches that has worked with her in the past," says Williams.
"I know she has gone through a lot and here comes the dream. She actually gets to fulfill the dream she set, which is such an honour in itself. If things go through and they results she asks for come through, it should be a beautiful day."