For much of his life, Michael Janyk was a professional alpine skier—a technical master banging gates on slalom and giant slalom courses around the world over a 14-year pro career that included three Olympic Games, one of them on his home turf in Whistler.
And while he saw some success (and knows what it’s like to stand on a world championship podium) Mike didn’t hit that childhood dream benchmark of Olympic gold, or “Best in the world.”
And while that is a common experience for nearly all athletes in every sport, not many share what that feels like from an athlete’s perspective, and what keeps them going as they continue to grind it out and chase their passions. Mike does though, in his first book Go to the Start: Life as a World Cup Ski Racer. Mountain Life editor Feet Banks sat down with him to learn more.
“I was going to open the book with, ‘I never won a World Cup,'” says Michael in a wide-ranging and refreshingly candid conversation. “I went through my old journals from when I was 13 years old and I found my old goal sheet when I was a racer at the Whistler Mountain Ski Club. And it said, WIN A WORLD CUP. And WIN AN OLYMPIC MEDAL. So those top-end goals never came to fruition. Once I came to accept that and write about it…. But that took almost a decade.
At the 2010 Whistler Olympics, my hometown Olympics, in my backyard, I was in the prime of my career; I was 28 and just a year off my World Championship medal.
And I came 13th. And it took until writing this book to realize what actually happened—and it wasn’t a devastating blow. But the summer after [the Whistler Olympics] I was super-depressed. I didn’t have the language… I didn’t know about depression. I felt like there was a hole inside me. And it takes so long—it was still so raw. There’s one journal entry in the book and it’s a letter to my sports psychologist at the time and I was saying I wanted to retire. Yeah, I tried to hang em’ up because I was so down and my body felt so broken.
I was just like, How can something I love so much be such a poison? That’s what I wrote at the time. And, How can it hurt my body so much? How do I feel so empty? And so in this whole journey afterward, you know, to reconciling, you start to see what’s of real value that comes out of it. And it isn’t the medals, although those help support the lifestyle. But there are some really deep, deep moments there that you have with people, and with yourself, as you’re trying to be your best.
And if you’re trying to be the best in the world, you have to be a little crazy… “
Check the podcast here.
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