Weather Heil's biggest hurdle

By Andre Cyr, QMI Agency

WEST VANCOUVER — Odd as it may seem, the biggest hurdle standing in the way of Jennifer Heil’s quest to defend her gold medal could be the weather.

Of course, all of the other freestyle skiers taking part in the races are going to have to deal with Mother Nature, as well.

The rain has been falling nearly all week at Cypress Mountain and more is expected today. Add the 15 mm or so of rain to the fog patches that have been rolling in and it’s not a very comforting scene for the competitors.

But good weather or bad, Heil — who won gold at the Games in Turin four years ago — prefers to look at things with a positive attitude.

“All of this rain that has fallen, it could even be a good thing,” said the adopted Montrealer. “First of all, instead of finding ourselves on an icy run, we’ll have softer snow, more compact. And, in the end, it’s good to have trained in these conditions because it’s exactly what we’re expecting on race day.”

But regardless of the weather, the competition should be fierce.

Heil’s closest rivals appear to be Japan’s Aiko Uemura, Americans Hanah Keamey and Heather McPhie or Australian Margarita Marbler.

“Canadians have never won Olympic gold in their home country and they will have a lot of pressure,” said American coach Scott Rawles. “We know they will give it all they have, but we will be ready to face them.”

Rawles said McPhie has been working all year in preparation for the Games, adding she is going into the competition feeling confident.

Fellow Canadians Chloe Dufour-Lapointe, the youngest competitor at 18, and the more experienced Kristi Richards will also attempt to earn a spot on the podium.

There have been whispers that Richard, who is from Summerland, B.C.,, will make an impact on her home turf and may even try a full back to impress the judges.

“I did so many of them during training, I’m ready for everything (so) we’ll see,” said Richards, whose best finish came in 2007 when she won gold at the Madonna di Campiglio world championships, beating out none other than Jennifer Heil.

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