February 12, 2006
Jenn fans the flames
Moguls ace gets Canada off to the perfect start
TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

SAUZE D'OULX, Italy -- One down. Twenty-four to go.

Jenn Heil was the first to 'Own The Podium' as she opened the Torino 2006 Olympic Winter Games here yesterday with a gold medal in moguls.

She said she wanted the job and she got the job done.

"This is such a great team. There will be more where this came from,'' said the 22-year-old from Spruce Grove.

"It was great to set the tone and be part of it.''

It certainly inspired one of her team-mates here, aerialist Jeff Bean.

"It was freestyle skiing and it was Jennifer Heil coming through,'' said Bean.

"What a great way to start. This is what we wanted to do.

"Jennifer put it down when it counted. She won by almost a point. That's a huge margin in this sport.

"There was a lot of pressure on her to win the gold medal and she won it.

"She was supposed to win but I was worried for her. There was just so much pressure. She just embraced it for all it was worth.''

Canadian team head coach Peter Judge said he never stops being wowed by the moguls miss.

"Absolutely awesome!'' he said.

"All through this there was so much pressure, being the World Cup champion and with all the attention on her to be the first Canadian to win a gold medal in the first event,'' he said.

'ANYTHING TO HAPPEN'

"You are always worried when it's one day and one race. Anything can happen.

"But at the same time during the last two weeks you could see her take it to another level. Instead of kind of cruising the course, she really started to put her foot to the floor.''

Heil won the qualification run to set herself up as the last to start of the 20 skiers in the final.

Heil's speed and brilliance in the air, for which she's renowned, came through in the final as she nailed a 360 on the top jump and a backflip with cross at the bottom.

"This is great for our freestyle team,'' said Judge. "She really lit the fire under all of them. That should spark all of Canada's athletes to have Canada's greatest Games ever.

Heil says some of Canada's athletes here failed in Salt Lake and maybe they'll do what she did to build off the previous Games to have success in this one.

She missed the medals by 1/100th of a point in Salt Lake.

"I think missing by 1/100th in Salt Lake really helped me become the gold medallist at these Olympics. Salt Lake happened so quickly.

"It was only my second year on the World Cup tour. I really didn't have the preparation. Missing the medals by such a small margin gave me a lot of confidence for the future.

"But most of all it showed me how much the little things mean.

"When you lose by 1/100th of a point, you really learn the lesson that little things make a difference.''

FOLLOW HER INSPIRATION

Not only did Heil give Canada's athletes who follow her inspiration to go for gold and those 25 medals our nation plans to win at Torino 2006 but two other Canadians finished in the top eight.

Kristi Richards of Summerland, B.C., finished seventh and Audrey Robichaud of Val Belair, Que., finished eighth.

"It was a great night for Canadians. All four Canadians made it into the finals. Jenn won the gold. And two of us made it into the top eight behind her,'' said Richards of the spots where athletes are awarded diplomas instead of medals.

Richards, who has had an injury-riddled career, was finally healthy at the right time and right place.

"I never really had a chance to show what I could do,'' she said.