The one that got away

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 11:37 AM ET

The thing about skiing is that it tends to be a spin-the-bottle sort of sport. It doesn't matter if it's downhill, slalom or freestyle, over the course of most seasons, the cream rises to the top and wins the World Cup titles. But on the big day ... it doesn't always work out that way.

Jenn Heil of Spruce Grove won the World Cup moguls title the last two years. In doing so she had a lot of podium finishes. She also finished fourth (twice), fifth (twice), sixth (twice), seventh and eleventh (twice).

Yesterday, in single moguls at the World Freestyle Ski Championships in Ruka, Finland, she missed the medals.

Finished fifth.

"My sport has so many different factors,'' said Heil on her cell phone two hours later.

"It has speed, it has style, it has jumps and you add the factor of it also being partially a judged sport ...

"It's all what makes it so exciting and so much fun. But when you finish fifth Funny how it works. Now the sensation of the nation in her sport, Heil was just a kid finishing fourth by .01 points at the 2002 Salt Lake Olympic Winter Games and was more thrilled than disappointed.

"There's no comparison,'' she said.

"That was my first Olympics and I was there ahead of schedule. And I performed my best. I did the very best I could have that day. Today I clearly didn't perform to the best of my abilities.

FRUSTRATING DAY

"I'm really disappointed and frustrated with myself. I wanted to push it and take it to a new level. I just didn't get there.

"I did everything solid. I did nothing exciting.

"It was a slow run. I didn't push it the way I know I can. Looking back, I felt I'd set myself up to do it. That's what makes it so frustrating.''

This week, 30 km from both the Arctic Circle and the Russian border, Heil was surrounded by Canadian success.

Aerialists Steve Omischl of North Bay won gold and Jeff Bean of Ottawa silver.

Marc-Andre Moreau of Chambly, Que., in his first major event and going against Finnish competition, which was expected to be on the podium, but didn't get it done on the day, won a silver medal in men's moguls.

Canada will take a gold and two silver from bumps and jumps at the Olympics in Torino next year. Three medals from freestyle would be terrific.

GREAT EXPECTATIONS

But Heil is supposed to be the star of this show. She's the one carrying the greatest expectations.

"It's been really exciting to see success on our team. It's hard being the last event at the world championships, trying to manage energy and time. You can't celebrate the team success with them. You're out there and supporting them. It was great to go out and watch them. It was inspiring. You want to use their success to add to it for the team.

"They did an amazing job. I didn't do my best.''

Gold medal winner Omischl, like Heil in moguls, is ranked No. 1 in the world. Silver-medal winner Bean is ranked 11th. Silver-medal winner Moreau is ranked ninth.

Spin-the-bottle sport, I'm telling you. It works both ways.

Anything short of a position on the podium is nothing to call home about. That wasn't a problem four years ago, at her only other world championships when she finished seventh.

World championships are held ever second season in the sport. Heil took the year after the Olympics off to get healthy and begin her college education.

That's why this was such a bummer to Heil.

It was her only chance to come close to duplicating the conditions she'll have to deal with next year at the Torino Olympics.

Heil has another shot at a world championship today.

But it's in dual moguls, the side-by-side stuff that isn't in the Olympics.

The one she really wanted got away. But at least there's another one today.

"I've already turned the page. I know exactly what I did wrong. The duals are a perfect opportunity to change that.''


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