Janka returns to Birds of Prey at Beaver Creek | VailDaily.com

Janka returns to Birds of Prey at Beaver Creek

BOP DH Carlo Janko DT 12-4-09

BEAVER CREEK – If you’re Switzerland’s Carlo Janka, what do you do for an encore this week at the Birds of Prey World Cup at Beaver Creek?

Last year, Janka won three races in three days, matching Austrian skiing legend Herman Maier, as the only two racers to ring up hat trick here. Does Janka have to win all three this weekend and then save the fair maiden from an oncoming locomotive?

Seriously, Janka’s already downplayed expectations for this year’s races, saying that he would be happy with one podium from Friday’s downhill, Saturday’s super-G or Sunday’s giant slalom.

But it’s a nice problem to have. He’s not only defending his titles here, but his overall title, not to mention his 2009 World Championships gold medal in GS, when the biennial event reconvenes in Garmisch, Germany later this winter. (Janka also won GS gold at the 2010 Olympics, so he’ll have a target on his back in Sochi, Russia, in 2014.)

“I’m the same person like before,” Janka said. “Maybe the people know me a little more, ask for more photos or autographs. Otherwise it’s still the same.”

He finished seventh overall in the 2008-09 standings, and had two World Cup wins in addition to his Worlds medal that season, which took him out of the category of unknown, but still left him under the radar when it came to the tour’s superstars.

Janka seems to be a quiet guy who goes about his business. Yet it is that steadiness which his competitors see is his strength.

“I have no answer to that,” he said. “I just try not to think.”

Having just turned 23 at the start of last season, Janka started with bronze in the Soelden, Austria, GS and Lake Louise, Alberta, downhill. Then came Beaver Creek with the triple. Those were three of his six wins on tour last season – Janka won the fabled Wengen, Switzerland, downhill, as well a downhill and a GS in Garmisch at the end of the year.

In between Beaver Creek and Garmisch, there was that Olympic gold, and more importantly. He was simply steady, which is more simply said than done. Janka finished second in downhill, GS and super-combined and was sixth in the super-G.

That consistency helped him overcome the only chink in his armor, the slalom. Janka competed in three slaloms last year and never made the second run.

That’s understandable, given the time it takes to train the speed events, the downhill and super-G. Those skills translate well to GS, but not slalom. It also falls in the pattern his nearest competitors for the overall. In second, Austria’s Benni Raich just dabbles in downhill, mostly in the super-combi. Janka’s teammate Didier Cuche, who took third last season, has entered only two slaloms in the last six years and never made the flip in his storied World Cup career.

“Maybe, I’m a little bit more in the front,” said Janka of his status as the overall champ. “The other guys are on me. I guess it’s a new situation. I had all summer long to accept that and I think I’m ready for it.”

Janka said he didn’t change his offseason training regimen, and so far, so good. Though it’s very early in the season, he’s sitting third in the overall with 116 points behind Austria’s Mario Scheiber (130) and Switzerland’s Silvan Zurbriggen (119). Janka got his first points of the season up in Lake Louise with a seventh in the downhill and a second in the super-G.

“Every year like (last year) is not possible,” Janka said. “I hope I can be on the same level, but we will see at the end of the season if it’s possible.”

Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or cfreud@vaildaily.com.

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