Freestylers claim silver medals in Finland 

Heil back on track after missing a year and a half due to injuries

The Canadian moguls team got off to a strong start last weekend with a pair of silver medals in Ruka, Finland.

In the women’s competition on Saturday, Jennifer Heil of Spruce Grove, Alberta won her sixth World Cup medal – despite the fact that she’s only 20, and spent the last year and a half sidelined by chronic shin and lower back problems.

"I’m really excited with my results today," said Heil. "After not being out of the start gate for one and a half years, I was so nervous I thought I was going to throw up.

"Except for the win (Japan in 2002) this was my most important World Cup medal. I had tears in my eyes when I crossed the finish line."

Heil is smaller than the other racers, but makes up for it with stylish jumps and a fluid style in the bumps that lets her go as fast as the other girls.

Heil posted a strong run to earn a score of 24.72, finishing just behind Kari Traa of Norway’s score of 25.43. Hannah Kearney of the U.S. was third in 23.73.

Stephanie St. Pierre of Victoriaville, Quebec, who is just 18, finished in fourth place. St. Pierre lost training time this fall to an injured ligament in her right knee.

Elisa Kurylowicz of Manotick, Ontario was 18 th and Jennifer Simm of Prince George was 25 th .

The men’s competition followed, with Janne Lahtela of Finland leading the way with a 24.90. Jeremy Bloom of the U.S. was second in 24.57, and Mikko Roinkainen of Finland was third in 24.21.

Canada’s top skier was Pierre-Alexandre Rousseau of Drummondville, Quebec, who finished in fifth place. His jumps were more conservative, as he too is recovering from past injuries. Still, he posted the fastest run of the day, which shows that he is back in World Cup form.

"The first contest of the year is so hard because I just want to prove that I can be in the final," said Rousseau.

Jim Schiman of Cranbrook was 18 th in the field of 47 skiers.

In the aerials event the previous day, Canada was once again a force to be reckoned with. In the men’s event Kyle Nissen of Calgary finished second, behind Dmitri Dashinski of Belarus. Third place went to Stanislav Kravchuk of the Ukraine.

Because of high winds, the officials didn’t allow any triple somersault jumps, which Nissen said worked in his favour.

"I’m really capable with my doubles," said Nissen, who returned to the podium for the first time since 2000.

Steve Omischl of North Bay, Ontario, was the next Canadian in sixth place, holding onto his lead in the World Cup aerials standings.

Ryan Blais of Grande Prairie, Alberta was third, giving Canada three spots in the top-10. Jeff Bean was 18 th , Cord Spero was 28 th and Warren Shouldice 29 th .

In the women’s contest, Alisa Camplin of Australia took the top spot, followed by Nina Li of China and Kate Reed of the U.S.

The top Canadian was Deidra Dionne of Red Deer, Alberta. Amber Peterson was the only other Canadian to make the finals in 12 th place.

Veronika Bauer of North York, Ontario, was 16 th .

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