February 11, 2006
Gold for Canada
Heil captures first in moguls
PAT GRIER -- Sun Media

TURIN, Italy -- Canada's hopes for its best Olympics ever got off to a golden start today when Alberta's Jennifer Heil won gold in the women's moguls.

Skiing from the final position, the 22-year-old from Spruce Grove, Alta., ranked No. 1 in the world, fulfilled her Olympic dream with a stunning run down the course in Sauze d'Oulx. She finished with a score of 26.50 out of 30. The mark combines her time and judged technique and aerials.

Heil's face exploded with joy, her arms thrust into the air, when her mark was posted.

"When first place flashed on the scoreboard, the first thing I thought of was my whole life and so many people being behind me,"Heil told the SUNMedia's Terry Jones. "Now I can go share this gold medal with all of them."

Defending gold medallist Kari Traa of Norway took the silver medal with a score of 25.65, while France's Sandra Laoura won bronze with 25.37.

"It was such an honour to compete in this venue together with Kari and Sandra,"Heil said, adding of the Norwegian. "Kari, she's such a legend."

Heil's run was punctuated by a crossed ski somersault as she sped down the 223-metre run in a time of 26.69 seconds.

Heil's gold is the first medal for a Canadian woman in this event and duplicates Jean-Luc Brassard's victory in the men's moguls at the 1994 Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway.

Heil, a business student at McGill University in Montreal, has been the top-ranked women's moguls skier in the world the past three seasons, including 2005-06 in which she has two wins and four second-place finishes on the World Cup circuit. She placed fourth in the event at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City, her first Games.

Earlier this morning, Heil easily finished first in qualifying, where the top 20 of the 30 skiers advance. Three other Canadians also advanced, with two cracking the top 10.

Kristi Richards of Summerland, B.C. was seventh with 23.30, followeed by Audrey Robichaud of Val Belair, Que. in eighth with 23.10. Stephanie St. Pierre of Victoriaville, Que. finished 12th with a score of 22.52.

"I landed too far back on the bottom jump,"St. Pierre said. "I have been passing through frustration and delusion. I put all the energy Ihad in the race, but unfortunately it didn't go as I expected."