February 23, 2006
Champ has heart of gold
Olympic moguls winner Jen Heil's visit leaves CHEO patients in awe
JORGE BARRERA -- Ottawa Sun

By the end, Jennifer Heil's gold medal was smudged with children's fingerprints.

The world-class freestyle skier visited the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario yesterday and spent several minutes signing autographs before touring the wards.

"It needs to be polished, as you can see it gets fingerprints on it every once in a while," said a smiling Heil, holding her medal.

Many of the children were in awe of the Olympian.

Thomas Quinet, 9, who has cystic fibrosis, was planning to ask Heil how much her medal weighed.

"Just for fun," said Quinet.

But when the gold medalist approached him, his dimples overpowered the question.

Jackson Brochert, 10, wasn't so shy. In a wheelchair with his leg and arm in casts as a result of two ski accidents, Brochert struck up a conversation with Heil.

"I ski, too," said Brochert. "Before I broke my arm and leg."

"Oh, you do," said Heil, 22, who won Canada's first gold at the Olympics in the freestyle moguls event.

"Just like you, I like to take jumps," said Brochert.

Heil laughed and signed, "believe in your dreams," on Brochert's leg cast.

"These kids are incredibly tough," said Heil. "I think they are role models for me because they fight so hard every day."

Around her were children with tubes sticking out of their bodies, some in wheelchairs and one child from Iqaluit with stitches on the back of his shaved head who held a Canadian flag with Heil's scrawl.

Heil also met with Prime Minister Stephen Harper yesterday for several minutes and lunched with Environment Minister Rona Ambrose, who is the MP for Heil's home town, Spruce Grove, Alta.

PROVING HER MEDAL

A quick look at Olympic gold medalist Jennifer Heil:

- Born: April 11, 1983, in Edmonton.

- Home town: Spruce Grove, Alta.

- Event: Freestyle skiing -- women's moguls.

- Medal performance: Heil won Canada's first medal of the 2006 Winter Games with a gold in the women's moguls on Feb. 11.