VAL D'ISERE, France (Reuters) - Canada could hardly have asked for a better end to the world championships ahead of next year's Winter Olympics than Vancouver-born Michael Janyk's bronze medal in the men's slalom on Sunday.
Not only was it the first medal ever won by Canada in a world championships slalom, it also came after the unexpected downhill victory by John Kucera, who became the first Canadian alpine skiing world champion last week.
"To see John on top of the podium showed us that we were not a third-rate country in alpine skiing, that we could again compete at the highest level with the very best," said the 26-year-old Janyk.
The slalom specialist will feel particularly at home at next year's Games with the alpine skiing events taking place in Whistler Mountain, the resort where he lives with his parents and his younger sister Britt, a fellow Canadian squad member.
"I live about five minutes from the finish line. I even broke my leg on this piste at 13 doing free skiing," he said.
"There will be a lot of pressure of course, especially after this, but any skier can only rejoice about skiing at home, in front of family and friends."
While Britt has already experienced World Cup victory by winning a downhill in Aspen last season, Michael only had one World Cup podium to his credit, in 2006 in Beaver Creek.
Only ninth after the first run, he skied a clean second leg and watched in amazement as six skiers starting behind him crashed out of contention, handing him a medal behind Austria's Manfred Pranger and France's Julien Lizeroux.
"It was really a nail-biting moment waiting in the finish for the others to go down. The last couple of years and all the struggle to make it up to that point came back to mind," said Janyk, who was hampered by a lingering back injury for most of 2007.
Editing by Padraic Halpin