Sochi will be a different Winter Games for Jennifer Heil -- and for all Canadian citizens watching the Olympics. While the average Canadian can revel in CBC's planned total coverage, Heil is just happy to be able to experience the Games again first-hand.
Instead of her skis and boots, the two-time Canadian Olympic medalist might pack a stroller and diaper bag when she goes to Russia this winter. But that doesn't mean it won't be strange for Heil (who gave birth to son Danik five months ago) to watch her old teammates compete in February from the CBC broadcast booth.
"I'm going to have to fight to not try to get to the top of the mountain," she said. Heil will join a contingent of journalists from the CBC in Sochi to cover the Winter Games. She'll serve as an analyst for the freestyle mogul events, while Kurt Browning and Beckie Scott will do the same for skating, cross-country skiing and biathlon.
The CBC is planning non-stop coverage that Canadians will be able to watch on TV or their smartphone, listen to and stream online for the duration of the Olympics -- from February 7 until February 23. Ron MacLean, Scott Russell, Diana Swain and Don Cherry will be among the familiar faces covering the Games. "As Canada's official broadcaster for Sochi 2014, CBC/Radio-Canada is covering the Olympic Games like never before," said Neil McEneaney, interim executive vice-president of CBC English Services, in a press release.
Heil, who nabbed the first Canadian Olympic medal in the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games, said she'll never forget the deafening roar of support that travelled up the mountain before she skied down to claim her silver.
"I'm happy I retired in Vancouver, because there's no experience that will ever match that. It's the absolute ultimate."
This time, Heil's job will be to critique an athlete's performance and explain what's going through their head during competition.
"To me that's the fascinating part. That's what I always loved about being an athlete ... that mental game. There's no more important moment than at the top of the mountain at the start line. I hope that I can connect with Canadians to teach them about our sport even further," she said.
From Russia's stance on homosexuality to security and cheating concerns, the upcoming Winter Games have not been without controversy. There have even been calls to boycott them altogether. When it comes to the Olympics, controversy is par for the course, explains MacLean, who will anchor the primetime CBC broadcast during the games.
He points to the 1972 Munich massacre, Tommie Smith and John Carlos's Black Power salute during the 1968 Summer Games, and even Canadian snowboarder Ross Rebagliati's marijuana drama after the 1998 Winter Games as instances where the Olympics have been about more than sport.
"These are all moments that are inescapable and probable when you have an event such as the Olympics. You have to do all your research on the notion that it's more than a game. It's always more than a game."
Russian President Vladimir Putin recently announced gay athletes will be welcome in Sochi, but the controversy will remain top of mind throughout the two-week event.
MacLean said all athletes should try their best to ignore the noise and focus on what they do best. He's looking forward to the ice-skating competitions because he thinks Canada has a chance of medalling in all four disciplines: men's and ladies' singles, pairs and ice dance.
"Patrick Chan is magnificent."
Check out the Sochi Olympics coverage on CBC (and here on HuffPost Canada!), which begins in early February and runs until Sunday, February 23.
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