Jenn's silent partners

Olympic gold medalist Jennifer Heil gives Douglas Goss a kiss on the cheek as he holds some of her...

Olympic gold medalist Jennifer Heil gives Douglas Goss a kiss on the cheek as he holds some of her trophies. (Sun Media/Jason Franson)

TERRY JONES -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:03 AM ET

Nobody made mention of it. Not once.

Not when Jenn Heil won her Olympic gold medal. Not when she won her fourth World Cup moguls title, second world championship in duals or her first overall World Cup freestyle ski championship in her best season ever this year.

Nobody ever mentioned the money.

Follow the money and you'll find maybe the best behind-the-scenes story in Canadian sports heading to the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games.

A few years back when the Canadian Freestyle Ski Association was in a major mess, Jenn Heil woke up one morning to find out she was without $25,000 of funding she was expecting. She needed it to be able to compete.

Because of that crisis, a group of Edmontonians became her silent partners to Olympic and international glory.

And then there's the rest of the story.

Those silent partners are now well on their way to doing the same thing for an entire stable of Canadian athletes to the tune of $1 million between now and 2010.

It began with Doug Goss.

"I've known the Heil family for a long time," said the man who headed up the Heritage Classic, chairs the Oilers community foundation, is a member of the Eskimos board of directors and has fronted a host of fund-raising projects.

"I grew up at Lake Wabamun with Randy Heil five cabins apart. I've known her mom Heather for years. I found out about Jennifer's situation.

"She told me, 'I think I can really compete at the highest level.' But she didn't have the resources and Canada couldn't help."

Goss talked to Bruce Saville.

"We put a group together."

Then Jenn won Olympic gold.

"We realized the model we'd built really worked," said Goss. "It was Jenn's idea.

"She convinced us there were other athletes with the same kind of talent she showed. The idea was to make sure they're looked after.

"She sold me. I sold the others."

So now figure skater Joannie 'Rocket' Rochette, freestyle skiier Alex Bilodeau, bobsledder Helen Upperton, women's hockey goalie Kim St. Pierre and others are going to get the same kind of support as Jenn Heil.

"It's not like a bursary or a grant," said Heil, in town for a few days prior to competing in the final event of the season, the Canadian nationals, in Calgary this weekend.

"It's strictly for needs. It's strictly to give the athletes the best possible resources to dedicate to training, coaches, nutrition and sports science sort of thing. That's what I received. Doug got me the specific resources I needed."

Goss rounded up some of the usual suspects in Saville, Don Wheaton, Bob Mac-Lean, Bill Bowlen, Angus Watt, Ashif Mawji, Robert Day, Dr. Randy Yafscoff in addition to double Olympic bronze medal winner Karen Percy-Lowe and her husband Kevin.

"We are committed to making sure they get the resources," said Goss.

Heil said she doesn't think she would have won her Olympic gold or had the success she's had without it.

"After our turmoil year in freestyle, I don't think I could have done it. They were pretty difficult circumstances. And ever since ... well, no way I think I'd be able to stand on the top of the hill with the kind of confidence I've been able to have up there.

"I feel I kind of fell into this. I had people from Edmonton who believed in me and supported my dream.

"It's now such an exciting thing to offer the same thing to other athletes who show the work, the talent and the desire. It's such a great thing for me, now, to not only have this for myself but to share in the excitement of others. The last thing they have to worry about now is where the money is going to come from."

So why come out of the closet on all of this now?

Jenn Heil and her Edmonton backers are taking the model to Calgary to convince people in the '88 Olympic city to start their own stable and do the same thing.

"I really believe this is going to be Jenn Heil's legacy," said Goss.

"It started right here with Doug," said Heil as she planted a kiss on his cheek at his office as our photographer clicked the pic.


Videos

Photos