Whistler's Britt Janyk finally broke out of a slalom slump Sunday at a wacky women's World Cup in Aspen, cracking the top-20 and literally saving her berth in the discipline.
“I'm definitely relieved. I'm pumped and it's a step I needed,” Janyk said, still breathing hard after her effort.
Finland's Tanja Poutiainen won the race, in a two-run aggregate time of 1 minute, 50.77 seconds, adding another victory to her giant slalom win Friday. Italy's Manuela Moelgg climbed the podium for the first time of her career, crossing second in 1:51.98, with American Kristina Koznick placing third, 1.37 back. World Cup overall, giant slalom and slalom champion Anja Paerson failed to master the tough conditions and went out in the opening run, while Janica Kostelic, leading after the opening run, crashed out in the second.
The 46th skier out of the hut in the opening run, Janyk struggled through the top of the choppy course but hung on despite the thick curtains of snow falling that prevented 21 of the 66 starters to finish the leg. She nailed the lower section of the course to finish right on the bubble in 30th position, qualifying for the second leg of a World Cup slalom for the first time in over 10 months.
Determined to make the most of the opportunity, Janyk charged her second trip down, posting the ninth-fastest time of the leg to climb into 19th place, in 1:54.79.
“I think there was a little bit of luck involved because a lot of girls went out first run,” said the two time national slalom champion. “I was a little nervous going into second run but I knew I had to race it. I had to ski fast and so I put the nerves aside and just went for it and it came off with a really strong run.
Jim Pollock, head coach of the women's technical team, waited anxiously at the bottom of the course watching as Janyk negotiated her way down a second time for the first time in 10 months.
“I was a little nervous,” Pollock admitted. “It's been a while. She skied better. Right from the start you could see she was skiing a little more fluid, a little more technically sound. She seemed more confident.
“I raced all the slaloms last year but really struggled to qualify,” Janyk said. “In slalom it's tough to get in and when you get in you've got to use it. And the tough thing is you can go out so easily in slalom.
“I've cracked through it. I know I put a lot of hard work through the summer; it's starting to pay off. I'm encouraged by this result and I know if I continue to put in the hard work it will come.”
The Canadian women have only two berths in slalom. Janyk owns one of them, having previously collected World Cup points. Every country is also automatically awarded a so-called “nation's spot,” allowing any skier to attempt to collect points for a personal berth.
However, Janyk was in danger of losing her spot, for at each race skiers gain or lose points depending on their performance. The team expected her to lose her berth by Christmas time if she didn't score more points.
“Slalom is one of the toughest events to start out of the top 30 and crack in there,” said the 24-year-old. “So I just have to keep stepping forward and keep getting my bib number higher and get into that top-30. There's such a difference starting No. one compared to No. 46.”
The result was particularly gratifying for Janyk who failed to qualify for either Saturday's slalom of Friday's giant slalom.
The women's technical team is now off to Winter Park for a pair of NorAm slalom and giant slaloms.