Grove girl gets gold

SCOTT ZERR -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:14 AM ET

Winning may not be easy, but world No. 1 Jennifer Heil is certainly making it look that way.

Spruce Grove's moguls sensation captured her fourth World Cup gold of the season yesterday by taking the duals title at an event in Inawashiro, Japan.

Yesterday's win - the eighth of her World Cup career -- was a touch of sweet revenge after Heil placed a disappointing sixth in the singles event there on Saturday.

"I'm trying to learn as much as I can from every race," said Heil. "I could see that I didn't do very well and I just tried to apply what I learned and I found some success with that.

"It's always disappointing when you don't do well and I am so competitive at heart. I used that disappointment to come out for the duals the next day. The confidence I have is helping me but I think the big thing is having the ability to go back out and refocus."

After missing the entire 2003 season to recoup from injuries, Heil has blazed the mogul trails around the globe. Her comeback season of 2004 featured three wins and already this season she has built up a comfortable lead over Margarita Marbler of Austria in both the singles (506-383) and duals (606-428) World Cup standings.

"The first (career) win is definitely so special because you've never experienced anything like that before but they are all really satisfying," said Heil.

Although the course is regarded as one of the toughest on the circuit, Heil has enjoyed some of her biggest success there. Previously, Heil won her first World Cup race in Inawashiro and also has two silver.

"The landing at the top is really difficult and I didn't push myself hard enough in singles," said Heil.

"I didn't build up enough speed and that really hurt me. In my mind, I just made the course flatter than it was and I continued bringing up my speed at the top jump and landing farther down the hill. I've been skiing since I was two years old and the root of all of this is just my love of skiing. I like the challenges of facing the more difficult courses."

After a win in the qualification round, Heil eliminated Azusa Ito of Japan and then dropped Sara Kjellin of Sweden in the quarter-finals. With one race left for a shot at the gold, Heil went nose to nose against arch-rival Kari Traa of Norway in the semis.

"I could see that Kari was going faster than me but she was making a lot of (technical) mistakes and I was able to keep my composure. I wasn't going to go fast at all costs," explained Heil.

With Traa gone from the hunt, Heil topped Japan's Tae Satoya in the final to complete a gruelling day on the tough terrain.

"I didn't have a lot of success in duels before this year and I contribute the success to my increased strength. I'm not getting too tired by the end of the five runs," said Heil, who spent a second consecutive year doing off-season training in Montreal with Canadiens strength and conditioning co-ordinator Scott Livingston.

Just two weeks ago, Heil won her first duals event coming out on top at Deer Valley, Utah - a victory that neatly packaged in with her two singles golds so far this season at Lake Placid and Tignes, France.

Heil will remain in Japan and will compete in Naeba this weekend before heading off for the next stop in Sauze D'Oulx, Italy.


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