Zelinka sets bar high

DAVE FULLER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:36 PM ET

One of Canada’s best and only medal hopes for track and field at the 2012 Olympics in London, says she’ll stay home if her comeback shows signs of stalling.

National heptathlon champion Jessica Zelinka admits she doesn’t have the stamina — not yet anyway — that allowed her to smash the Canadian points record for her event and nail a fifth-place finish at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Her stunning, seven-event points total of 6,490 at the China Games — would have won her a silver medal four years earlier in Athens. But like every sport, the bar keeps rising.

Zelinka, on the other hand, has taken a major step backwards — having given birth to a beautiful daughter, Anika, in May 2009. She only returned to competitive track a few months ago, and so far, her performances have been a bit lacking.

Perfectly understandable of course. In fact, Zelinka can’t think of a single heptathlete who has jumped from motherhood to the Olympic medal podium.

But there’s always a first time — and Zelinka proved she’s still the top Canadian in her sport Thursday night, winning yet another gold medal in heptathlon at the Canadian Track and Field Championships at Varsity Centre in downtown Toronto.

This was her fifth national title and while her winning total was a slightly disappointing 5,998, it was also a slight improvement over her first international competition — The Hypo Meeting — last month in Geotzis, Austria

“As long as I feel like I can train well, and that I’m recovering from training (I’m going to London),” said Zelinka, who grew up in London, Ont., but now lives and trains in Calgary.

“I’m not doing this for fun and jokes or because this is what I’m used to. I’m going out there to improve my results from Beijing. If I start to feel I can’t do that for some reason, then I’m shutting it down. There’s no wasting time with anything.”

This week’s meet result, was, however, only a beginning. She has another international meet in France in six weeks, and then the Commonwealth Games, Oct. 3-14 in Delhi.

“I know it’s a process that I’m going through (right now). As long as I feel like I’m improving, and I am improving and that there’s room to improve then I’m going full out for London.”

Zelinka’s coach, Les Gramantik suggested the lack of competition at the nationals didn’t bring out her “killer instinct.”

But Zelinka said she used the meet to work on her mental strategy — to “tap into that zone” she needs to be in, in order to compete at her best.

Zelinka, who is married to Canadian water polo star Nathaniel Miller, a three-time Pan-American Games bronze medallist who helped Canada to an 11th-place finish at those same Beijing Games, won four of her seven events.

Zelinka built up a huge,

154-point lead over Western’s Jennifer Cotten through Wednesday’s first four events, finishing first in the 100-metre hurdles (13.27 seconds); shotput (13.27 metres); and 200 metres (24:64). Zelinka was a close second to B.C. Athletics’ Natasha Miller in the high jump (1.73 metres to 1.67 metres).

Cotten won Thursday’s first event, the long jump with a leap of 6.12 metres, worth 887 points. Zelinka was second at 5.91 metres, adding 822 to her total. Zelinka dominated the javelin, with a 40.57 toss, but finished a distant second in the 800 metres.

The Canadian Track and Field Championships continue Friday. Feature men’s events include finals in the discus (2 p.m.), long jump

(3 p.m.), hammer throw (4:30 p.m.) and triple jump

(7 p.m.).

Women’s finals include the shot put at 4:30 p.m., triple jump (5 p.m.) high jump (6:15 p.m.) and javelin (6:30 p.m.).

The premier finals go Saturday, including the long anticipated showdown between Perdita Felicien and Priscilla Lopes-Schliep in the women’s 100-metre hurdles at 5:50 p.m. The men’s and women’s 100-metre finals start at 4:40 p.m.

dave.fuller@sunmedia.ca


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