Heil returns reinvigorated

By TERRY JONES, QMI AGENCY


Jennifer Heil's season is just getting going with just over a month until the Winter Olympics. (QMI Agency)

CALGARY -- The road to the Vancouver Olympics isn't going to be the end of the road for the international queen of bumps and jumps.

Jenn Heil just finished reinventing herself. She decided riding off into the sunset won't be worth the work even with another gold medal around her neck.

"It's been such a long journey and so much hard work, I want to capitalize on that and go out and ski free and enjoy it. It's not going to end with Vancouver.

"I've decided I'd like to go on. I'd definitely like to go to the world championships the following year.

"I'm 26. Kari Traa went on until she was 31 or 32," she said of the previous queen of moguls skiing.

"I could definitely have another Olympic cycle if I wanted."

Heil has had a long time to think about this. At a time when so many Olympians are catching their breath before heading to Vancouver 2010, Jenn Heil's final countdown clock on this Olympic cycle is just kicking in.

With only 35 days until she's the leadoff hitter in the line-up for the home team with a chance to become the first Canadian ever to win a gold medal in a home country Olympics, Heil's season is just getting going.

Oh, there was one event, a rescheduled quick hit pre-Christmas World Cup moguls event in Finland in which she finished third.

But starting here this weekend with two moguls events, another two next weekend in Salt Lake and one last event the following weekend in Lake Placid, it's now go time before show time for the lady who had her own street named after her in Spruce Grove earlier this week.

Now we find out if she should be favoured to repeat the feat of winning the lead-off gold medal for Canada at Torino 2006.

"I'm finished with all those outward expectations," said the reigning Olympic champion, two-time world champion and four-time World Cup champion.

"I've narrowed down to what I can control. All the rest of it is outward stuff. I'm going to let it fade away.

"I feel like I've done the work to be where I am. My body feels great. I know my plan is the right one and I'm happy where I am today. I'm ready to ask 100% of myself."

People forget where Heil was two years ago and what she had to do last year.

She was away 20 months before returning to competition. In that time away she essentially taught herself how to walk again much less ski again.

Heil took the same year off in the last Olympic quadrennial to rebuild her pistons and ended up winning gold at Torino. But this was different. This wasn't just rest and recovery from the sport where wear and tear can rip your knees apart. This was a total rebuild, a rebuild beyond belief if you knew what she was going through.

She may have won the world championship in dual moguls in the last event of 2007, a year after winning the Olympic gold medal. But she was a rambling wreck from her neck down to the tips of her toes.

She made it back last year and came close to winning another World Cup title but ran out of schedule.

"Where my struggle was last season was on the concentration and with the focus to make the changes stick," she said of literally first learning how to walk differently before learning how to ski differently.

"When you are that focused and that concentrated on details, it's hard to just go out and let it go. Now I'm at the point to let it go and let it happen," she said.

"In training I've started to feel it. It's the first time back in competition I need to let it go. I'm really excited to bring that to game. That's what the next three weeks are about, that's for sure.

"It's important to me to just let it go, look for those feelings and look for that zone. The podium and that stuff will take care of itself.

"I like the way it's set up.

"I'm in amazing shape. We put the work in this summer and fall. I'm happy with my technical training and really excited to get back into it find that fifth and sixth gear.

"Now I need to take all that experience, including last year, and utilize it."

Jenn Heil is back. For a good time. And a long time.

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