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|Janka is an early tip to be an Olympic hero in Vancouver [AFP]|
The Winter Olympics needed a name to excite fans, alpine skiing needed a new all-rounder and Switzerland’s Carlo Janka showed himself at the weekend to be just the man for both jobs.
Three outstanding wins in the super combined, downhill and giant slalom in three days on the Birds of Prey course have made Janka an early favourite for a Vancouver medal haul and the talk of the ski world.
“He is a great skier, I don’t think you can put your finger on one thing. He is not like a warrior like Hermann Maier,” said Norwegian overall World Cup champion Aksel Lund Svindal, who finished behind Janka twice in the Vail Valley in Colorado.
“When you watch him ski, he’s very efficient, he does exactly what he needs to do to be fast, he doesn’t make many mistakes which for a young guy skiing fast is pretty rare.”
Janka has been highly regarded on the circuit for some time but this season his potential has transformed into stunning results with five podium finishes from six starts.
“I just wish I could go back 10 years and have his God-given talent,” Switzerland team-mate Didier Cuche said of the 23-year-old, who has been nicknamed the ‘Iceman’ for the calm way he has handled his rapid rise in the sport.
After his win in Friday’s super combined, alpine skiing’s new sensation boarded a public bus, undisturbed and unnoticed by course workers making their way back to their lodgings.
A native of Obersaxen, a village of 800 people in Switzerland’s southeast, Janka joined the World Cup tour in December 2005 at Kranjska Gora, Slovenia, at the age of 19.
Within two years he had his first top 10 finish at Val d’Isere in the super combined, and in December last year, his first World Cup win at the same venue, where he dominated the technically demanding giant slalom on the steep ‘La Face’ course.
The breakthrough came, however, at Wengen, where he captured a super combined event on the way to his first crystal globe, displaying his class in a discipline that brings together downhill and slalom skills.
“At the moment there is Carlo making a name for himself. That is good for skiing because there are a lot of sports fighting for attention and you need people with a profile”
Overall World Cup champ Aksel Lund Svindal
A month later, Janka won the giant slalom title at the 2009 world championships back in France at Val d’Isere in February, and also took a downhill bronze.
Although Janka had already proved his credentials, few would have expected his astonishing start to this season after he was laid low by a mystery virus and missed a large chunk of off-season training.
The skier himself finds it hard to explain his superb form.
“I don’t know, I don’t care,” he said.
For Norwegian Svindal, having a new high-profile rival is good for him and good for the sport.
“I think it is important that we have all-rounders because you need to have certain (big) names in a lot of the races and near the top,” said Svindal, who has had to deal with a knee injury in the early season but should be back to his best in time for Vancouver.
“It is good to have even competition but it is not good to have a lot of new winners in every race.
“At the moment there is Carlo making a name for himself. That is good for skiing because there are a lot of sports fighting for attention and you need people with a profile,” he said.