Olympic gold medalist and four-time World Cup mogul champion Jennifer Heil is cleared to compete this year after missing last season to undergo knee surgery.
It was the second time in her career that Heil has taken a season off with an injury, and she used the time to complete her second year of commerce studies at McGill University in Montreal. She also traveled to West Africa with Plan International with their “Because I am a Girl” campaign, which works to create equality for women in developing countries.
Aerialists Warren Shouldice and Kyle Nissen also missed last season with injuries of their own, and are expected to return this season.
While having three podium earners on the sidelines could have derailed the Canadian freestyle ski team’s expectations for the season, other athletes stepped up to help Canada win the overall Nations Cup title for the third straight year, and by a margin of almost 1,600 points. Three Canadians won crystal globes this year for finishing on top of the standings in the World Cup — aerialist Steve Omischl, and halfpipe skiers Sarah Burke and Matt Hayward.
In total the team won 25 World Cup medals in moguls and aerials competitions, as well as nine medals in halfpipe and six medals in Ski Cross, the latter of which was adopted as an Olympic sport at the start of the 2007-08 season.
According to Heil, in a Q&A interview on the Canadian Freestyle Ski Association’s website, she is feeling fit and ready to take on the world.
“The time away from competition has allowed me to take my fitness to the next level and at the same time I am re-energeized to be back in the start gate,” she said.
“This season is going to be an exciting season for me as I travel to many new venues after seven years of competing on the circuit. I am of course looking forward to the World Championships in Inawashiro, Japan.”
Heil was also complimentary of the Olympic mogul venue at Cypress Mountain, which got off to a rocky start last season when fog forced the cancellation of World Cup test events.
“VANOC has done a great job in preparing world-class venues for all the sports, I’m really impressed with the progress they made in what seems like such a short time. The mogul course is no different. It’s great. I love how accessible the course is to the crowd.”
Worldwide, attendance was way up for moguls events last season. The decision to host more night events was a factor, as well as the addition of urban events, and changes to the rules two seasons ago to allow athletes to go inverted and increase the degree of difficulty of their jumps.
The moguls season gets underway in Moscow on Dec. 13, followed by a competition in Meribel, France on Dec. 18. The aerials team competes in back-to-back World Cup events at Adventure Mountain in China on Dec. 19-20.