Fri, September 20, 2013

Zelinka's jumps cost her shot at heptathlon medal

By ROB LONGLEY, QMI Agency


Canada's Jessica Zelinka reacts at the finish line of the women's heptathlon 800 meter event during the London 2012 Olympic Games, Saturday August 4, 2012.


LONDON - Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge were at Olympic Stadium for a Saturday night celebration.

Like most of the 80,000 packed into the stands, they came to see a triumph of the human sporting spirit as Great Briatin’s Jessica Ennis ran away with the heptathlon to cap a rousing three gold night at the track for the host nation.

But for all that joy in the stadium, the other Jessica — Canada’s Jessica Zelinka — only felt the anguish of a disappointing seventh-place finish.

Taken down by the high jump in Friday’s opening session and another lacklustre result in the long jump Saturday, Zelinka suffered a gutting end end to her Olympic career.

The London, Ont., native couldn’t hold back the tears as she reflected on what will was likely her final big shot.

“I was just so well prepared and I didn’t see anything I was missing,” a choked up Zelinka said. “All the work had been done. Everything was in place. “

Though she’s only 30, Zelinka became a mother since her fifth-place finish in Beijing but juggled that with motivated training to get in peak physical condition for London. But another Olympics sounds like a challenge she’s not prepared to tackle.

“Rio? Probably not,” Zelinka said when asked about sticking with the taxing event through 2016. “Our family can’t sustain this lifestyle. It’s pretty crazy.”

If she does indeed close the book on her Olympic career, Zelinka will have a tough time digesting her performance in the high jump here, especially, but also Saturday’s long jump. She set personal bests in the javelin, hurdles and 200 metres but the points gained weren’t enough to compensate for the ones given away.

Zelinka, who started Day 2 in third after four of the seven events, finished with 6,480 points after finishing second to Ennis in that electrifying 800 finish that had the entire stadium on its feet. Ennis was the runaway winner with 6,955 points.

“I don’t know what to make of it because five of the seven (events) were exactly what I wanted,” Zelinka said. “Five out of seven isn’t bad, but in heptathlon the jumps are not forgiving. I could have messed up a throw or anything else.

“It was over after that. I don’t know why I couldn’t put together just a half-decent jump.”

With Zelinka missing the podium and shot putter Dylan Armstrong finishing fifth on Friday, Canada’s medal hopes in track are desperately bleak just two days into the meet.

That said, up and coming distance runner Cam Levins put on an encouraging show in the 10,000 metres finishing a breakthrough 11th after sticking close to the front in a race won by Mo Farah.

“I was there with the best in the world for 24 laps,” Levins said. “I just don’t have the strength yet to kick with them. It’s cool to meet guys like Mo Farah, but you don’t want to put them on a pedestal, I’m going to be racing them for years to come.”

The Farah-Ennis double to end the night plus a long jump win by countryman Greg Rutherford ended a brilliant session for the locals, a triple gold performance that surely will keep Great Britain buzzing for days.

I can’t believe I’ve had the opportunity to come to my first Games in London and won an Olympic Gold medal,” Ennis said. “To come into this event with all that pressure, and everyone saying, ‘Oh, you’re going to win gold’ - I just can’t believe I’ve done it.”

With six gold and a silver overall on Day 8, it was GB’s most prolific Olympic day in 104 years.

For Zelinka, it will be a couple days to forget.

“rob.longley@sunmedia.ca

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