Heil skips Worlds, preps for Vancouver

By TERRY JONES, QMI AGENCY

EDMONTON — She pulled the parachute.

She opted out.

Gave herself a bye week.

Decided no win equaled no show.

Jenn Heil did not win a fifth straight moguls World Cup gold medal in the final event prior to the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics Thursday because the competition was in Lake Placid and she'd driven home the night before to Montreal.

Heil decided there was more to lose than gain by competing in the event she left for Americans to dominate, finishing 1-2-3-4.

Something like this might go almost unnoticed in most sports on most Olympic years, but there's a focus on Heil like few others going into Vancouver.

The pride of Spruce Grove is expected to win the first gold medal of the Games, as she did four years ago in Torino, to make her the first Canadian to win gold in an Olympics in Canada, the host nation having been shutout in Montreal '76 and Calgary '88.

“It was the fifth moguls event in 15 days including two back-to-back events on two of the most difficult courses in the world,” said national coach Peter Judge.

“Considering she won the previous four it was decided Jenn was in a good place and her coaching staff took the decision to opt out of the event.”

Her coaching staff is headed by Dom Gauthier the Montreal man who is also her life partner.

“We were coming out of Deer Valley, a course which is very similar to Cypress where the Olympics will be held. This course in Lake Placid is so different from Cypress,” said Gauthier.

“We decided after six or even runs here to give Jenn the rest and a fresh mind going into our pre-Olympic camp at Apex,” he said.

On the phone from Montreal Heil said the decision was made on site in Lake Placid, not before they left Deer Valley, although it was an option that they all realized they were going to have to consider.

“Like all decisions there are positives and negatives,” she said. “It wasn't easy to make a decision like this.”

She said it had nothing to do with the prospect of avoiding injury.

“No. Absolutely not. I ski my best when I'm pushing my limits. To be the best in Vancouver I need to be pushing my limits in every race.”

It was about winning four in a row on tough vertical courses in the West which will closely resemble the Cypress venue versus changing things to adapt to a flatter course in upstate New York.

“Your style of skiing has to adapt,” said Heil. “Being on those two very steep courses in Calgary and Deer Valley for those four races was challenging. Lake Placid was a departure from that.”

Moguls skiing is an unusual sport in that it combines both timing and judging. But thinking if a decision to opt out of Lake Placid might cause a negative reaction from judges wasn't involved said Gauthier.

“I think they'll respect the decision. I really believe it won't affect the judging.”

One of the considerations involved in the decision was the Crystal Globe and a fifth World Cup title for the acknowledged international queen of bumps and jumps since replacing Kari Traa of Norway on the throne.

“If Jenn had been second or even first by a narrow margin, it would have been a tougher decision to make. She's hardly got it locked up but she has a healthy lead and it's not a bad thing for Jenn to have to fight for it until the end.”

With Heather McPhie finishing third behind Hannah Kearny and Shannon Bahrke Thursday, Heil remained with 505 points with McPhie moving up to 416.

Meanwhile, in Vancouver there's rain on the coast and the courses, which drops to a parking lot has lost all it's snow, the forcast doesn't look good for either natural snow or good artificial snow-making conditions and VANOC organizers are looking at trucking and even helicoptering in snow for the Day 1 event.

“We're definitely aware of the situation,” said Heil, who says she isn't worried about it.

“This is the Olympic Games. I think they'll have a world class venue for us. They have no choice.”

They can't pull the parachute. They can't opt out.

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