Heil was a natural 'Olympian'

By TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

VANCOUVER — You’d think it would have been otherwise, but there wasn’t that much talk about the Olympics in Jenn Heil’s house in Spruce Grove, Alta., when she was growing up.

“The ‘O’ word didn’t come up that often,” remembered Jenn Heil’s mom Heather.

“It’s true,” agreed Jenn, who will have a chance to win Canada's first gold-medal on home soil tonight. “We definitely didn’t speak a lot about the Olympics at home.

“But once I was exposed to the Olympics, I couldn’t get it out of my system. Looking back, I think it was always in the back of my mind while doing sports growing up and made me push a little bit harder. But when it came to actually talking out loud about it, there was never a lot of that.”

Funny how it works. Jenn Heil is all grown up now. Along with her first Olympic gold medal, she has four (going on five) World Cup titles, two world championships, 25 World Cup wins, 46 World Cup podiums, her own line of Birks jewelry and has even done some modeling.

Despite all that, when you’re a parent and your little girl grows up, it’s hard not to occasionally still see her as, well, that little girl.

Randy and Heather Heil were there when Jenn finished fourth in her first Olympics at Salt Lake 2002 when, at age 18, she was Canada’s youngest Olympian. Like they did in Torino 2002 when she won gold.

“She was just a natural,” said Randy of his daughter’s introduction to the sport. “She just took off. We put her on the bunny hill, but at that stage kids have no fear. She went from the green to the black diamond runs in almost no time.

And that little head, as she came bobbing through the moguls …

“Actually, you couldn’t even see her head. She was so little all you could see was the top of her touque coming through the moguls. She was three-feet high. She thought what she was doing was normal.”

Heather remembers that little girl, too, back when she was five on a family ski trip to Fernie, B.C.

“When we pulled into the parking lot, there was three feet of snow on top of the cars. She couldn’t get to the top fast enough. She took off through the powder and all you could see was her head. All those ups and downs, watching that little head …”

Jenn was going down ski hills long before those pre-school years, though.

“She started riding in a pack sack on my back when she was a year old,” recalled her dad. “She was two when she first put on a set of skis at Lake Eden.”

Randy also tells about the time he took a car load of Edmonton skiers to Canyon in Red Deer.

“When we got there it was 20 below. When we got to the parking lot, the kids were all saying ‘I’m not

going down.’ Then I heard this little voice from the back which said ‘I am.’ ”

And she still is.

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca

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