Mike Janyk

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3x Olympian, World Championship medalist, Author

For most of his life, Michael Janyk lived in a world where performance on demand was not only an expectation, but a requirement. As an Olympic and World Cup ski racer, the pressure to be at one’s best was ever present and requires a skill set that goes well beyond the physical dimension.

From an early age, he was ignited with a drive to prove himself through sport and with it, a keen ability for mental toughness. This meant blocking out the nerves, fears and anxieties that came with the pursuit of his dream. In the beginning, this worked in his favour, able to manage everything and find success. As he matured though and the intensity of these emotions seemed to rise, all the mental skills that had brought him to be one of the best in the world, were no longer working.

“It all really came to a head after the 2010 Olympic Games in my hometown of Whistler. I was just coming off of my World Championship bronze medal season, riding a high and going into my home Games as an outside medal hopeful. After finishing a disappointing thirteenth place, it felt like my whole world had just vanished and I fell into a deep depression.”

The summer training period that followed was filled with small injury after small injury, continually sinking to new lows. It all came to a head a couple months before the start of the race season, when he sent a retirement letter to his sport psychologist. “My body felt broken and my spirits absolutely crushed. I was losing the resilience to get back up and push through it all. I physically couldn’t train the way I did in the past and mentally I was in a deep pain. I didn’t want to go on like this.”

Michael’s sports psychologist, though, astutely walked back from the ledge and encouraged him to seek more professional help before making a final decision. “I knew that my motivation that had brought me success in the past was no longer there. If I were to continue, I’d have to discover a new way of being in this sport.” This “new way” was to use the world of high performance sport for self discovery, rather than to prove his worth. So with this reset, Michael made a commitment to no longer block out and run from his nerves, but rather go into them and see what would happen.

“I wanted to know what was on the other side of this fear. Why did it feel so scary to exist in the same room as it? Why was I spending so much energy running from it? What would happen if I let it in and if I stayed, would it swallow me up?”

In the Spring of 2014, in his last World Cup run and just after his third Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, he was given his answers and experienced a new state of performance. “I just kept telling myself to stay with the pain, stay with the nerves. Be with it, just be here with it all.”

This mantra stayed with him until ten minutes before getting into his last World Cup start gate. “All of a sudden the negative feelings and doubt just went away. Poof! It was like my head burst through the clouds and all the pain was gone. It was silent. I simply looked around at my competitors and smiled.”

“When I got on course, I was dancing. I was in my body feeling every movement and morsel snow, while simultaneously outside of it, watching from above in awe.”  This willingness to stay with the fear brought him through to the most freeing performance of his career and insights into the potential for human performance.

“As a cherry on top though, I had the fastest time on this second run. I won my last World Cup run, but it was the feeling I had on course that will stay with me forever.”
After retirement, Michael has worked back in sport development as the program and executive director for the Grouse and Whistler Mountain ski clubs. He has also worked as the mental performance coach for the BC provincial ski team. In coaching young athletes, he shares ways to approach sport in this new light, finding a healthier and more freeing sense of Self to compete from.

With a lively and open storytelling style, Michael eloquently takes us on his outward and inner journey through sport. In doing so, you’ll leave with a greater awareness of your own emotions and tools to navigate towards the state of free performance. Come with us as we go from start gate to start gate, to some of the most spectacular mountains in the world and into the mind and body of one of the greatest Canadian ski racers of all time.

Michael currently lives in Whistler, BC with his wife, daughter and dog.

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Speaking topics

Portals of Performance

We are taught that our nerves and fears pull us away from an optimal state of performance. But what if those very emotions are doorways into a place of connection, possibility and freedom with one’s actions? Journey and learn with Michael through his World Cup and Olympic ski racing career, from start gate to start gate, from medals to crashes and finally into discovering what's on the other side of the fear. The world of Free Performance.

Audience takeaways:

  • Nerves are your friend in performance
  • Understand the basic neuroscience behind the mental/emotional/physical connection in relationship to performance
  • Overview of three fundamental mental performance skills
  • Learn three simple practices for working with your strong emotions and entering the Free Performance state.

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