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Heil finds silver lining

Canadians solid but Americans capture gold and bronze in women's moguls

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With the weight of a nation's expectations on her shoulders - first medal of the Games, first gold medal on Canadian soil, a gold medal from 2006 to defend, not to mention her own expectations for herself - Jennifer Heil was calm, collected and skied two phenomenal runs at Cypress on Saturday.

But the U.S. women's moguls team, probably the strongest in the world right now, was not conceding anything and in the end the day belonged to American Hannah Kearney.

Heil settled for the silver medal.

The crowd sat through seven hours of weather that can only be described as gross, cold, rainy and windy, aware that there was a chance that the finals might not happen at all if the forecast for rain and fog came to pass. Ringing cowbells and cheering loudly they celebrated every competitor, every big jump, every athlete who fell and got up again.

Pemberton's Kristi Richards fell in the middle section on her final run, but after she picked herself up and put her ski back on she waved to the crowed to make some noise before heading into the second jump and launching a stylish twisting backflip.

American skiers Michelle Roark and Heather McPhie fell on their runs but the crowd cheered them too as they smiled through their frustration.

In the end the crowd also seemed recognized that it was unfair that winning a silver medal can feel like losing. After all, for freestyle competitors the Olympics is just another event, a slightly bigger contest on a growing global World Cup tour that is already attracting crowds in the tens of thousands. How do you measure one event against the backdrop of an entire season, or one season in a long career?

Not that a silver medal is anything to apologize for.

While disappointed, it didn't take Heil long to put things into perspective.

"I don't know what the difference was in scores, but it's such fierce competition, every time we click into our bindings it's so competitive," she said. "I love that the other girls push me to be my best, and today Hannah was the best.

"Of course I was going for the gold medal, of course that's where 100 per cent of my focus was... but I really do feel like I won the silver today. This medal is for Canada. I feel so well supported, all the Canadians are behind us, this is our Games and I'm just so proud to be Canadian."

If nothing else the crowd saw just how tight the competition is on the World Cup circuit these days with strong teams in Canada, the U.S. and Japan, and up-and-coming athletes from Russia, Kazakhstan, Italy, and half a dozen other nations.

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