Silver lining for Canada’s Jennifer Heil


Canada’s first medal of the Olympic games in Vancouver 2010 came from Jennifer Heil, who won silver in the women’s freestyle moguls final on Saturday night at Cypress Mountain.

The defending gold medallist from Turin 2006 stepped to the top of the hill to a raucous home crowd and executed the run of her life, scoring an impressive 25.69.

“I wanted gold, and I won silver today,” a visibly heartbroken Heil told CTV. “I’m proud of my performance and I was standing with Canadians on my shoulders. This is Canada’s medal.”

The native of Spruce Grove, Alberta came into the event as a heavy favourite, leading the overall world cup standings, and was hoping to become the first ever Canadian athlete to win gold on home soil.

No athlete has ever won back-to-back Olympic gold medals in the moguls event.

Heil led until the last skier, American Hannah Kearney, who qualified first in the preliminary round, put together a near perfect run to dethrone the Canadian.

Kearney is all too familiar with disappointment as she was heavily favoured at the 2006 games in Turino but wound up in 22nd place. She dispelled the myth that she is a choke artist by winning the gold medal in spectacular fashion , scoring 26.63.

American Shannon Bahrke, 2002 silver medallist in Salt Lake City, finished a lightning-fast run to win the bronze medal.

18-year-old Canadian Chloe Dufour-Lapointe represented not only herself but her older sister Maxime, who did not make the team.

The first-time Olympian was not a heavy favourite, but was a pleasant surprise, finishing in fifth place.

“It was so much fun to hear the crowd,” a teary-eyed Dufour-Lapointe told CTV.  “I’m just taking every positive sound and keeping it in my heart.”  

Canadian medal hopeful Kristi Richards began her run at a blazing pace but could not maintain control and tumbled after her first jump. 

Although it was a disappointment, Canadian fans showed their solidarity and cheered her on when she finished her inspirational run to finish in 20th place.  

Michelle Roark of the United States had to overcome some adversity when her husband was banned from entering the competition venue due to a lack of accreditation.    

He snuck into the facility but was caught soon after, and it was the first time he had not been there to cheer on his wife during a competition.

It was evident that her mind was elsewhere as she tumbled after her first jump, taking her out of medal contention.

Heading into the event there was some concern regarding the weather and rainfall, and the fog started to set in as the athletes took to the hill for the finals.

Despite the poor visibility, the snow remained soft and was not a huge factor.