Good as gold

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 11:03 AM ET

She went to the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics with stars in her eyes and came agonizingly close to taking home a prize, missing out on a medal by 1/100th of a point.

At age 18, Jennifer Heil of Spruce Grove, Alta., was Canada's youngest athlete at the Games and found the Olympic experience somewhat overwhelming.

"Absolutely amazing,'' she said the night she checked in to the Games. "I open my window and I can see the course from my room. It's the most incredible sight I've ever seen."

Four years later, Heil is going back to the greatest show on snow with her eyes very much on the prize -- the biggest prize -- an Olympic gold medal. And as she completes her preparations for the Turin Games, she does so completely at peace with what happened in 2002 and completely prepared for 2006.

"The 1/100th of a point I think about pretty much every time the subject of the Olympics come up," she said. "But you know what? I went to those Olympics telling myself I wanted to achieve one thing. I wanted to make my best run and wake up the next morning and say I had no regrets.

"Missing a medal by 1/100th of a point ... that's tough. It was really close. But looking back, I'm happy the way things turned out. It definitely pushed me."

Heil, in the interim, has become the greatest Canadian female moguls skier ever and the best in the world during the past two years.

She made history in 2004 by becoming Canada's first World Cup champion and successfully defended her title in 2005 by making it to the podium on six occasions and winning gold five of those times. She also captured gold in dual moguls at the world championships.

Heil, who finished first and second at the two pre-Christmas events this year, returned home for the holidays for four more events before she settles into a Canadian camp in Tignes, France to prepare for the Turin Games.

"That's where we started our season," she said. "Tignes is not that far from Turin. One day, we drove (to Turin) and walked up to the venue in our running shoes. The stands were already up. It just didn't have the same effect on me as when I saw the Olympic setup in Salt Lake.

"That's the beauty of experience. It didn't impress me the way Salt Lake impressed me. It felt really good not to be impressed by it."

And now she waits for another chance to win the Olympic medal she came so close to wearing in 2002.

"I reached my goal as World Cup champion. The biggest joy has been getting better each day and pushing the limits," she said.

"I'm glad it's getting close. There's definite anticipation.''

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MEDAL CHANCES

Heil has dominated for two years and there is no reason she won't in Turin

PREDICTION: Gold


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