Canada's one-woman speed team

28 January 2011 20:21

The Canadian women’s alpine speed team is looking a little slim these days. Some people are even calling it a one-woman show. In many ways it is.

Whistler’s Britt Janyk, 30, has had more than 25 top 10 results on the World Cup, landing her first way back in 2000. The highlight of her career to date came in 2007-08 when she landed on the podium at home in the Lake Louise downhill and then followed up with a huge first victory in the Aspen downhill. She landed sixth in the Olympic downhill on her home mountain last season and while starting this season a little rough with some non-scoring results in Lake Louise, she appears to be getting back on her game. She landed in the top 15 in the Val d’Isere and Zauchensee downhills, and finished ninth in the Val D and Cortina d’Ampezzo super Gs. But compared to years past, she is carrying the whole torch for her team now … and doesn’t have much company.

“The last couple of years we’ve had a strong speed team; myself, Emily Brydon, Kelly Vanderbeek and Larisa Yurkiw coming up. But now it’s kind of dwindled down to me,” Janyk said. “But at the end of the day I’m out here to do my job and I still have my goals. I want to have some fast races.”

The Canadian speed team has indeed undergone a serious transformation. First of all, the ladies team is now led by former Swiss-Ski’s Hugues Ansermoz. Also, long-time U.S. Coach Frank Kelble was recruited as head speed coach this season and former U.S. women’s head coach Jim Tracy is now an assistant coach for the Canadian women’s speed team.

“I worked for Patrick [Riml] before for the U.S. Team. I really enjoyed working with him and told him if there were ever an opportunity to work with him again I would do it,” Kelble said. “In the spring he called me and told me he had an opportunity. For me, it was a new team, a new federation, a new challenge. It’s building a new team. The U.S. team has been built into something that’s pretty special right now. For me at this point in my career, I wanted a new challenge. Jim was there. Obviously he has a lot of experience, he’s someone I can put on any course, on any track and he understands the line, the speed. He understands what it takes to win at the World Cup level.”

As far as athletes go, the Canadian speed team lost veteran Emily Brydon to retirement after her home Olympic season and then Shona Rubens also announced her retirement. Before the Olympics, the team lost one of its top skiers, Kelly Vanderbeek, to injury and then up-and-coming Larisa Yurkiw, both of whom are making slow recoveries but probably won’t make it back to the World Cup until next season.

Also, Great Britain’s Chemmy Alcott had begun skiing with the Canadian team but was also sidelined after breaking her leg in Lake Louise at the beginning of the season. While the Canadians are trying to bring a couple of younger racers into the World Cup fold and tech skier Marie-Michele Gagnon is making her way up in speed events this season, Janyk is basically pulling the carriage.

It didn’t really dawn on me until spring when Emily retired then Shona retired. I was like, Larisa and Kelly are still out … it’s just me,” Janyk said.

Still, Janyk is poised to hold her own. And her coaches certainly believe she can lead the charge.

“She’s been around the sport long enough. She’s got the experience,” Kelble said. “She brings a lot to the table for the younger athletes. She’s totally capable of being on the podium. That’s where we want her, that’s where she wants to be. That’s the direction we’re trying to go with her. Also, if you get someone at the top who’s successful, then everybody else starts moving up. Success breeds success. Once we get her moving, we’ll get some of the other girls moving, too.”

Click here for video with Janyk.

By Shauna Farnell/