Heil settles with silver
By Terry Jones
WEST VANCOUVER — Put a hold on the gold.
Canada's earliest hope for the first gold medal at a Canadian-hosted Olympics ended up a silver for Jennifer Heil.
“I really don't feel like I lost gold, I really feel like I won silver,” Heil said.
Jennifer Heil after her final run at the freestyle skiing ladies moguls event at Cypress Mountain in West Vancouver, B.C., on Saturday, Feb. 13, 2010. (ANDRE FORGET/QMI Agency)
But her body language said different. She kept a big smile on her face and raised her arm in the air at the flower presentation. But she was nowhere near as happy as the Americans who won the gold and bronze and stood on the podium with her.
Heil said not winning the gold but still managing to win a medal to treasure forever, one that would have completed a gold-silver-bronze collection if she hadn't finished fourth by 1/100th of a point eight years ago in Salt Lake, was as good as gold because it came in Canada.
“It's a different experience because I was competing in Canada. I'm so proud to have won this medal. I am so proud to be a Canadian.”
Many Canadians, of course, had penciled Heil down for the first gold medal at a home Olympics. But now the nation will have to wait for the gold rush predicted at Vancouver 2010.
Heil found out Saturday night what Kara Traa felt like four years ago in Turin. The former queen of bumps and jumps was going for a second gold medal in 2006 when the Canadian from Spruce Grove, Alberta knocked her off her throne.
Hannah Kearney of the USA bumped Heil from the top of the podium here Saturday night.
“She seemed fairly disappointed. I feel for her,” said Kearney. “But I wanted that gold medal as bad as she did.”
Heil didn't question the result.
“Hannah had the best run,” she said. “I love that the other girls push me. But Hannah was best today.”
At her first media stop, with the rights-holding TV reporters, she offered a quote that sounded rehearsed: “I felt like I was standing on the shoulders of so many Canadians. I felt like I had wings on my back. This is Canada's medal.”
There was concern earlier Saturday that weather would prevent the event from being held Saturday, but the clouds lifted on Cypress Mountain.
The course was ready to go, though it had been the subject of much of the pre-Games attention because of the total lack of snow until days ago.
The snow was soft and slow. And fear was expressed before the qualifying run that soft, slow snow would work against the Turn gold-medal winner.
Slow snow is a great equalizer in the sport and the more challenging the conditions, the more it favors the pride of Spruce Grove. But the two who have topped the standings for most of the season were the two on top of the podium Saturday night.
Heil came here as the favourite, having won her last four events before coming to Vancouver to bring her total to 25 World Cup wins and 46 podiums. That leaves the two-time world champion in excellent position to win the Crystal Globe and her fifth World Cup championship.
She'll go to that as a two-time Olympic medal winner. And that's not so shabby.
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