January 29, 2006
It's better than gold
Heil wins, but breakthrough in technique has her thrilled
TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

Winning another gold was good.

All but mathematically wrapping up another World Cup championship was good.

Winning her last event before going to the Turin Olympic Winter Games was good.

But for Spruce Grove's Jennifer Heil, there was something even better in her World Cup moguls win yesterday in Madonna Di Campiglio, Italy.

"Believe it or not, it was not really about the win. I really had a big breakthrough in my skiing this week. That's what excites me the most.''

She's been the queen of bumps and jumps for three seasons.

She's worn the yellow bib in moguls for most of that time.

It was her seventh time on the podium in eight World Cup events this year.

And there's room for her to have a breakthrough?

"Oh, yes. Room to have a big breakthrough,'' she said.

"Basically, the biggest difference between men's and women's moguls is that the men are a lot more direct in their skiing. Their skis are pointing straight down the hill. I've been working at that all season.

''All the work I've done in the gym has been toward that. I've had the strength and the speed, but it still hadn't happened.

"I just made it happen!

"It's been great all week. It's just been a fantastic week. It's a really big breakthrough. I took it to the next level.

"It's almost like skiing faster than ever, but doing it with a lot more ease. It's tough to explain,'' she said.

"The big thing is that I've never been able to ski so quick and with such turns.

''I had the best turns of my life in both the semifinals and the finals and just skied very light.''

From whatever angle you viewed it, it was a big win in big snow.

"It's been crazy over here. At home there's no snow and I heard it was plus 10.

''There have been quite a few storms over here this winter and it was another event in which it was amazing we managed to get it in.''

Heil seems to specialize in winning in events with less than ideal weather.

"Basically, it started snowing two days ago. Huge flakes.

"I had to dig out the car last night with a shovel. I couldn't make it to our physio at another hotel the night before. I couldn't get out of the driveway.''

Heil has decided to pass on the final World Cup race before Torino. It's scheduled for the Czech Republic.

But she is heading to Tignes, France, for a week-long pre-Olympic camp before the Olympics. Her event is the first final on the schedule on the first day.

Heil has 549 World Cup points and a massive 193-point lead with three events to go after the Olympics.

"I qualifed first in my last three races, and that gives me a lot of confidence. I had a good performance here. My one goal for Torino is just to have a good performance and I'm on course for that. You can only control what you do,'' said the 22-year-old who missed a medal by .01 of a point, four years ago in Salt Lake.

"I'm going from here to Tignes, France, to get in a few last good workouts.

''Being first up at the Olympics, for me going to the Czech Republic would be too tight a turnaround. We arrive on Feb. 5 and have four days of training.

"I can't wait to get there and get my package of clothing,'' she said of the Olympic outfits.