Jen's on top of the world

SCOTT ZERR -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 11:50 AM ET

There wasn't any bubbly on hand so Jennifer Heil grabbed the next best thing. "I had a Japanese beer. It was pretty good," laughed the Spruce Grove moguls sensation. "The champagne will have to wait till a little further down the road."

But make no mistake. Heil will sip the champagne she is due.

With her fifth victory on tour this season and second in five days in Japan, Heil clinched the overall World Cup title yesterday in Naeba, besting arch-rival Kari Traa of Norway.

Heil, who now has nine World Cup victories in her career, defended the Cup crown by outdistancing herself from Traa by a 706-449 count at the top of the leaderboard.

The 21-year-old has been on a tear of late, winning in Deer Valley, Utah, on Jan. 29 and then taking two of the three events in Japan.

"I'd been hearing some comments all week that I was close but I haven't looked at the points all year so I didn't know I could win it," said Heil.

"It's a little surreal. It happened so quick. Last year there was a much bigger buildup to the end, but this is really special."

After the final run of the day, Heil knew right away that she'd come out on top as her speed and tricks had outclassed the field.

She was, however, caught by surprise when a Japanese TV crew informed her that the victory had also clinched the World Cup title for her.

BIG HUG

"I was telling them that there were still two more races and nobody had won the yellow bib yet and then my coach (Murray Cluff) came down the hill and gave me a big hug," said an exhausted-sounding Heil just before boarding a 14-hour flight to Italy.

"He told me I had got it. I made him tell me three times because I just didn't believe him. It was definitely exciting because it's so competitive on the World Cup tour and the women are really pushing the tricks with the back fulls and the D-spins. You have to bring your best every weekend and I've worked really hard for this."

But this only the first achievement in what could be a dynamic year for Heil. There's still two more World Cup events to come in Italy and Norway with the grand finale awaiting. To make the season a truly special campaign, Heil will go the big double and claim the world championship in Finland to go with the World Cup.

"That's really important to me. It's only every two years and it's a completely different race," she said. "It's definitely a big focus now."

And the rest of the field will be dialled in overtaking the world No. 1. Heil's got a target on her but challengers can't knock someone off that they can't catch and out-trick.

FIGHTING TO WIN

"Everybody will be fighting to win at the worlds. It'll be fierce,"said Heil. "I've done the little things well to this point ... I've been using what I've learned and I'm not about to change anything.''


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