February 13, 2006
All Heil giggling Jenn
Heil enjoys the moment as she finally gets her hands on Olympic gold
TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

TURIN -- There's no laughing and giggling on the Olympic podium.

There's no giggling when they play your anthem and raise your flag.

Just don't tell Jennifer Heil, gold-medal winner.

"That's Jenn," her mother, Heather, said. "I was the one with the tears."

Heil received her Olympic gold last night - Canada's first at these Games. She laughed and giggled. She later said she couldn't help it.

"I couldn't wait to get there (yesterday)," she said. "I've been happy for two days. I was just shaking up there. I just felt pure joy. I was so happy it was spread over two days."

She won the moguls event Saturday night.

"I'm just so happy. The emotion that came out was what I felt. I was just so happy. I thought I'd cry, but I did all my crying (Saturday)."

The 22-year-old from Spruce Grove won the freestyle moguls event by a huge margin after missing the medals by 1/100th of a point four years ago in Salt Lake, Utah.

Heil had 24 hours to get used to the idea of becoming a Canadian Olympic Winter Games golden girl the night before. But you need the medal around your neck to really start to feel you've joined Nancy Greene, Kerrin Lee-Gartner, Myriam Bedard, Catriona LeMay Doan and Beckie Scott in Olympic immortality

"I couldn't sleep at all last night. About 15 times I closed my eyes and saw my name come up first," she said of reliving the moment when the scoreboard flashed the combined time and judging marks.

Heil couldn't help but laugh after having been introduced as "the gold medal winner, from the United States of America ..." for the flower presentation the night before. It was James Easton, an IOC VP from the United States, who ended up presenting her with the gold medal yesterday.

She came out on the stage, the first to wear Canada's podium outfit, and threw her arms in the air when introduced this time as gold medallist and Olympic champion.

As the Canadian flag made its way to the top of the pole, with O Canada being played, Heil did take a deep breath. But it looked like a deep breath of satisfaction.

"I was happy to see it was the Canadian flag going up there and that they were playing the right anthem."

Heil had 15 relatives in Turin to watch her win and be presented with the medal. But she wished her grandmother could have been one of them. Dorothy McSparrun died at age 88 in January.

"I wasn't able to go back to Edmonton for the funeral," she said. "She was with me tonight."

So were a lot of people from back home.

"I read some of my e-mails and people told me how they were crying back home."

Canada's new Prime Minister Stephen Harper was one of the people who called.

"He said he was calling to congratulate me on behalf of all Canadians," she said. "That was very, very cool."

She even liked the medals, which have been described as a big doughnut, a large washer and a CD.

"They say the hole is a space for your heart," she said. "I'm just happy how heavy this is."

She handed me the medal, making me the first of thousands of people who will no doubt touch it.

She then let every one of the Canadian reporters take turns holding it to see how heavy it was.

If you liked the look of Heil's face as she stood on the podium, you would have loved it a few seconds after she posed for pictures with her mom, her father Randy, and her sister Amy. That's when the medal plaza fireworks filled the air. She stopped, looked up into the sky, her eyes gleaming, with a grin as big as the night.

She looked like a little girl thinking that those fireworks were just for her.

And they were.