Jessica Zelinka of London, Ontario is Canada’s best Heptathlete. She holds the Canadian record with a performance where she amassed 6490 points during her 5th place finish at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.


She earned a Gold Medal at the 2007 Pan American Games and Silver at the 2010 Commonwealth Games. She has won Gold at the Canadian Championships 5 times.


Zelinka will be competing Sunday, July 3rd at the Victoria Track Classic, which is now part of the brand new National Track League.


The National Track League was put together to provide rising and established top-level Canadian athletes in the sport of track and field an opportunity to compete domestically. The results already are indicating greater competition at established meets, such as Harry Jerome in Vancouver, The Edmonton Track Classic as well as the well-established, Victoria Track Classic.


I had the opportunity to interview Jessica about competing domestically and how this helps her prepare for the international-level meets, while maintaining a family life.


The Interview


Christopher Kelsall: What are your thoughts on the new, National Track League?


Jessica Zelinka: I think it’s great! Super great! I don’t get a chance to compete a lot throughout the year since I’m a heptathlete, so it’s nice to stay close to home and have a series of meets back-to-back where I can do individual events. It’s actually really perfect for me.


CK: Where does the Victoria Track Classic rank for you as a place to compete?


JZ: Victoria is a well run meet and well organized. They put the athletes first. I brought my daughter last year and she loved the bunnies on campus! Victoria is beautiful and I always look forward to the ferry ride from Vancouver.


CK: Your daughter Anika is 3, yes? Do you get to take her traveling much while you compete?


JZ: She just turned 2 at the end of May. She travels mostly when I go to training camps… since I’m gone for a longer period of time. We usually can rent out a condo for the couple of weeks and I can get into a comfortable schedule of training hard. My husband, Nathaniel, usually attends these training camps with us and so it becomes a family affair. I usually don’t bring her to my track meets since they’re mostly over-seas, and I’m not away for too long, and I only have a few in the entire year being a multi-event.


CK: Being an experienced international competitor and Olympian, how do you keep motivated for domestic events?


JZ: I find Nationals to be the more difficult event to get on my ‘A game” for, mainly because I have to go through the entire heptathlon which is tiring in itself. My score doesn’t get counted for the IAAF Combined Events Series (but US Nationals does), so my score isn’t so important as using the opportunity to work through some things and work on my, getting into the zone – even when the stakes are not as high.


CK: Nathaniel, I understand is an international-level Water Polo player. Have you entered the pool and played water polo to see what his sport is all about?


JZ: Nathaniel competed in Beijing (Olympics) on the Canadian team, which was an amazing experience for both of us to share together. I have tried throwing the ball around in the pool (without another player wrestling me and trying to drown me at the same time). I have no talent in the pool what-so-ever. For example, my swimming was at its best when I was 9 months pregnant  I really have no concept of how difficult water polo is, because I can’t even tread water for the duration of a quarter!


CK: Your best point total was 6490. What sort of things have to happen to have a day like that?


JZ: My head space was great during those two days at the Olympics. Basically the attitude I had was a “yes” attitude, so whatever was happening or might happen, I took a “no problem” approach. Kind of like somebody trying to ruin an overly positive person’s day- not going to happen. In my case, I wasn’t overly positive, just calm, confident and had the tools to deal with any potential distractions,


CK: Ruky Abdulai as the Vancouver Province reported, “upset” you at the Athletics Canada, Canadian Track and Field Championships by nipping you by a mere 18 points. Is this season about peaking for the IAAF World Track and Field Championships in August?


JZ: Ruky did not directly “upset” me at Nationals by winning and performing a personal best. I was a bit upset with myself by not being able to pull through with some solid performances to secure the title. Heptathlon is all about ups and downs throughout the 2 day period. Ruky succeeded better at managing those ups and downs than I did, and that’s the name of the game. So out of respect for the event, I believe that Ruky earned the victory on those 2 days.


CK: Having two top-level Heptathletes at the Worlds should make for an exciting competition within the competition. Perhaps Ruky will provide even greater motivation?


JZ: I’m really looking forward to competing at Worlds this August. My training has been going very well and I believe I can get a great performance in for these championships. It’ll be nice to have a fellow Canadian heptathlete around- a familiar face- but having Ruky there will not make a difference in my performance.


CK: OK I have to get this question in. I remember years ago watching a Canadian Game Show (I am not going to say which) where the trivia question involved the rock group “ZZ Top” (Zee Zee). The show host referred to the band as “Zed Zed Top”. It was awkward. Anyone ever address you as ”Jay Zee”, or worse, “Jay Zed”?


JayZee: Yes – Jay-Z (not Jay-Zed, though I sometimes make reference to this Canadian-ism). It was more of a high school track nick name. Perdita (Felicien) is already in on it, since we’ve been working together. My real track nick name is “puppy Tiger”(thanks to Les). Some people feel uncomfortable calling me puppy, so “Jay-Z’s” a good back-up option.