The idea, back when she left Vancouver 2010, was that this was going to be it, her swan song season.
Even back on June 30 when Jennifer Heil Way was opened in home town Spruce Grove with a Jenn Heil Day, this was going to be her farewell tour, one last lap around the world for the queen of bumps and jumps.
But the voice on the phone from 30 kilometres below the Arctic Circle and 20 kilometres from the Russian border in northern Finland wasn’t singing that song anymore.
“It’s pitch black all day and all night here,” said Heil, before revealing that she’d seen the light.
The World Cup freestyle skiing moguls season starts Saturday for Heil in Ruka and suddenly the story line isn’t on her finish line.
“There is no longer a lot of focus on what the end date is going to be,” she said.
“To achieve my objectives I can’t be thinking when the end date will be. I haven’t carved the end date out in stone. I’m excited about what awaits me. There will be a time to step away, but for me that’s not what I want to be thinking about.”
A revelation. A revitalization.
Which is to say she wasn’t prepared for what happened recently in Switzerland.
It was the pre-season training camp and it was a technical thing, much like a goalie sliding from one post to the other but Jenn Heil almost accidentally discovered something.
“It was a breakthrough in skiing. It was really bizarre. I was absolutely shocked. It was a little detail that would be absolutely boring to anybody but a moguls skier. It’s something that allows me to have more control and more grip on the snow.
“It’s pretty awesome. I never thought I’d have such a breakthrough at this point of my career,” said the 27-year-old who won gold in Torino 2006, silver at Vancouver 2010 and missed a bronze by 1/100th of a point at Salt Lake 2002.
The result is that she found a new excitement in her journey again.
“I feel like I can still get better. I’m excited. I have a challenge I wasn’t to face again on the ski hill.
“After nine seasons and 11 years, I suddenly still feel like I can still do it better.
“I’m here for the start of the year wanting to lay it out there this season. I’m still interested in being here. After 11 years, how many times can you come down a moguls course and still love it. But I’ve found something and I want to master that.
“I’ve found I still have the passion and joy for it on the emotional and mental side and I want to be as open to the experience as I can.”
Jenn Heil has won five Crystal Globes as World Cup points champion to match the moguls record set by American Donna Weinbrecht, the 1992 Alberville Olympic gold medal winner.
Heil, who has won 25 World Cup gold, 19 silver and six bronze to go with her two Olympic medals, two gold and two silver at the world championships, says her change of focus away from this being her last season has nothing to do with chasing numbers.
Nor does it have anything to do with the fear of waking up one morning and not being Jenn Heil anymore, or moving on in life without the lifestyle, adrenaline rush or daily adoration from the populace, or anything like that.
“I’m not afraid of retirement,” she said.
“I’m quite comfortable with the idea of using it as a springboard to where I go next. I don’t look at it as the end of the line, I look at it as the end of a chapter. I’m looking forward to writing a new story when the writing of this story is finished. I’ve always been prepared for retirement. I’ve always had an eye on what I was going to do after sport. In the context of a life, this is one small part.”
But put that all on hold. Jenn Heil’s revelation and a revitalization has made her a going concern again.
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