World Cup moguls qualifying from COP
Retiring mogul star qualifies for Saturday’s final
The magnitude of the moment hit Jenn Heil Thursday as she stood atop the hill on a sun-soaked afternoon at Canada Olympic Park.
One more World Cup on Canadian soil. One more shot at competing in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains. One last chance at gracing the top of the podium at home.
“I’m not super excited about how that run went,” Heil said upon reaching the bottom of the icy mogul field in qualifying action. “There was a lot on my mind. It’s a bit challenging knowing it’s the last one. “There are so many emotions.” Wait a second. Isn’t this the same Jenn Heil who carried the gold-medal hopes of an entire country into the Vancouver Olympics? Isn’t this the same woman who won gold on the first day of competition at the Turin Games in 2006 and silver on that rainy night at Cypress Mountain?
“But I’ve never been in this position before,” she said. “I’m about to retire.
“But yes, I know I can handle the pressure.”
In typical fashion, the five-foottwo, 125 pound dynamo ripped down the icy course Thursday in 27.50 seconds She registered a score of 22.63 to place second in qualifying behind reigning gold medallist Hannah Kearney of the United States.
The final is scheduled for Saturday morning.
“I’m in a great position,” Heil conceded. “I put down a solid run. I just have to really enjoy it and push it.”
And savour it. After a decade on the national team, the three-time Olympian and five-time winner of the Crystal Globe as the World Cup points leader announced her pending retirement on Tuesday in a news conference at COP.
At the wise old age of 27, the Spruce Grove, Alta. native will pack it in at the end of the season. This World Cup is her last in Canada.
“I’ve been able to live my dream for the last 10 years every day of the week,” she said. “It’s been so wonderful. To be able to compete for Canada in Canada — how many athletes can say that?
“So I have a lot of happiness. But I know I’m going to miss it. I’m not sure there’s anything like roaring down a mogul run and living with that passion and energy every day.”
Intensely competitive, Heil would dearly love to knock Kearney out of first place on Saturday. But regardless, the Olympic champion took time Thursday to pay homage to one of the greatest stars in the history of the sport. Her Canadian rival, Heil. “She’s an unbelievably good competitor,” Kearney said. “I was a young 17-year-old girl on the tour, and she was dominating everyone. I looked up to Jenn and Kari Traa, because they were such consistent competitors.
“I wish Jenn nothing but the best in the rest of her life.”
Kearney sits comfortably in first place with a score of 24.16. Heil is second at 22.63. Heather McPhie, of the United States, is third at 23.03.
On the men’s side, Canadians Mikael Kingsbury and Alex Bilodeau finished first and second respectively with scores of 24.33 and 23.91. Guilbaut Colas, of France, wrapped up the day in third place at 23.67.
But the day, and the event, really belongs to Heil.
“Jenn has been like my big sister since I started in this sport,”said Bilodeau, the Olympic gold medallist in Vancouver. “She’s a great skier, but a better athlete and even a better person.
“Jenn is a legend in our sport.”