Heil golden again

TERRY JONES -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 7:53 AM ET

Jenn Heil knows what it's like to be on the top of the podium.

She was there at the 2006 Torino Olympic Winter Games. But it was also the last time she was there.

For the first time this year - and for the 13th time in her World Cup moguls freestyle skiing career - the pride of Spruce Grove got back there yesterday. She was finally a golden girl again.

'IT WAS AWESOME'

"It was awesome to be back on the podium," said Heil in a telephone interview from La Plagne, France.

It was even better to be back in contention for a fourth straight World Cup title.

The win left her only six points back of Shannon "Sparky" Bahrke, the American skier who won the first two events of the season - a season that has been hit hard due to a lack of snow.

Bahrke finished fifth and now has 290 points. Heil has 284. The next closest competitor has 201.

If she finishes in any position ahead of Bahrke in today's dual moguls event, Heil will have the World Cup lead for the first time this season.

There are only three remaining events, other than a rescheduled world championships in Italy. Two of those events are in Japan and the last one is at Apex in British Columbia.

"Now I'm in position to keep the pressure on (Shannon) Bahrke like she's been doing to me this year," said Heil, who finished 13th in her first stop of the season, but was second in her two events leading to La Plagne.

"I've never seen it this close with so few events left in the season," she said.

GOOD FRIENDS

Heil and her American opponent have stayed good friends.

"We talked all day. We didn't talk about the yellow bib the World Cup leader wears, but we talked quite a bit," said Heil.

Heil had 26.83 points, followed by Deborah Scanzio of Italy and Margarita Marbler of Austria, yesterday. Kristi Richards of Summerland, B.C., was fourth and Audrey Robichaud of Quebec City was eighth.

La Plagne is the home mountain of Sandra Laoura, the French skier, who was seriously injured while training in Mont-Gabriel, Que., prior to what was the season's first event.

"It felt wonderful to get that first win at this venue, because I really wanted to go out there and win a medal for Sandra. It's really special. It was a huge source of motivation for me," remarked Heil.

SILVER FOR BILODEAU

In men's moguls, Alexandre Bilodeau of Rosemere, Que., finished just behind Finland's Sami Mustonen and took silver.

Dale Begg-Smith, a Canadian who competes for Australia, was third.

It was the first World Cup since mid-January as weather woes have plagued the circuit this season.

"We went from the world's hardest course to one of the easiest ones," Heil said of the most recent event at the 2002 Salt Lake Olympic site compared to the one in La Plagne, where the season opener was to be held, but was postponed until there was more snow in Europe.

"Overall I felt really good about my performance today," she said.

"I had really great training in Utah. I felt I was able to take it up to the next level.

"It's so important for our tour to have races here.

"It's like we have a season again."


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