Jessica Zelinka won’t be under the same pressure as other Canadian athletes at next month’s Olympic track and field trials in Calgary.
But the heptathlete plans to move out of her Calgary home while she’s competing. Zelinka wants to avoid distractions and concentrate on her seven events over two days.
“This year, I’m going to go into a hotel I think so I don’t have to worry about my daughter’s naps and her eating,” Zelinka explained Wednesday. “Going to a hotel will at least give me that time and space to prepare for competition.”
The trials will be held June 27-30 at Foothills Athletic Park, where Zelinka trains. The London, Ont., athlete lives in Calgary with husband and water polo player Nathaniel Miller and their daughter Anika, who is about to turn three.
Zelinka was fifth at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, won a silver medal at the Commonwealth Games in 2010 and finished ninth at last year’s world championships.
The heptathlon consists of hurdles, high jump, shot put, long jump, javelin and the 200 and 800 metres. Having already met the ‘A’ standard to qualify for the Summer Games in London, Zelinka just needs to finish top three at trials and score well within her capabilities.
Even though the 30-year-old has all but assured herself a place on the Canadian team going to London in August, Zelinka doesn’t intend to sleepwalk through trials.
“I don’t want to just go through the motions,” she said. “I want to be competitive and get that national title back.”
Zelinka lost her Canadian crown last year at Foothills to Ruky Abdulai of Coquitlam, B.C., which is another reason Zelinka wants to relocate to a hotel.
“I felt like I was just going to training, like it was just another day at the track,” Zelinka explained. “It’s important for me to always keep that competitive attitude. You don’t want to be laid-back, especially so close to the Games.”
The trials will feature athletes vying for spots on both the Olympic and Paralympic teams. Dylan Armstrong of Kamloops, B.C., one of the best in the world in shot put, and former world champion hurdler Perdita Felicien of Pickering, Ont., will be among the headliners.
Zelinka, sprinter Sam Effah and Paralympic athlete Alister McQueen were at Foothills on Wednesday during a high school track meet to promote the trials. Zelinka looked extremely fit and put her bulging arm muscles to work throwing the shot put for photographers.
“I’m in the best shape of my life and my training has been going amazing,” she said. “I don’t want to get too excited and anxious at this point.”
The stakes are higher for Effah at trials. The 23-year-old Calgarian has to run the 100 metres under 10.18 seconds and finish in the top three to punch his ticket to London.
Effah ran a 10.06 — Canada’s fourth fastest of all time — in 2010. A quadricep injury he suffered at the Commonwealth Games later that year has kept him from equalling or bettering that time.
“In 2010, I was under 10.18 three or four times,” Effah pointed out. “I look to the next coming weeks to hit that time and hopefully even break 10. I still have that goal and I’m not going to leave it behind.”
Effah will attempt to defend his Canadian title in the 100. He credits a local energy company C.E. Franklin for giving him financial support last year to treat his leg injury, which Effah says is now fully healed.
“It was a lot of maintenance,” Effah said. “For a muscle like that to repair takes a long time. It’s great to have the opportunity to compete and not have to think about anything like that.