Decorated Dinos track star Jessica Zelinka will be returning to Austria to represent Canada in the Hypo Bank Invitational. This will be Zelinka's second invitation to the annual event held in the city of Gotzis, and only the fourth time for a Canadian woman. Though an experienced athlete, Zelinka admitted there was an intimidation factor the first time she attended in 2005.
"I just came from my sports psychology appointment and we were talking about how last year was my first time there," said Zelinka. "The intimidation stuff was there when I got [to Austria]. I wasn't expecting or ready for it."
In 2005, Zelinka placed 11th in the heptathlon in her first appearance at the Hypo Bank, narrowly missing a top-ten position by nine points with a score of 6,137.
"This year I have more of a plan on how to stay focused on myself," Zelinka stated. "After the World Championships and the Commonwealth Games, I'm more used to these athletes. It won't be new."
The increase in international experience has shown in Zelinka's results at recent competitions. Since last year's Hypo Bank Invitational she has competed in the 2005 World Championships in Helsinki, Finland, placing 11th with 6,097 points, and this year's Commonwealth Games, held in Melbourne, Australia, setting a Canadian record and placing fourth with 6,213 points. Though she didn't earn a medal at Commonwealth, she did accomplish one of her goals.
"My coach [Les Gramantik] sets his goals of what he thinks I can do, then he asks me what I think," Zelinka noted. "We usually end up on the same page. For the Commonwealth Games, the goal was to get a medal, but also to get a Canadian record. Les' goal was primarily to get a medal, but he was thinking that if I got a Canadian record, I'd get a medal."
With no Olympics or World Championships this year, the title of largest track meet of the year falls squarely on the shoulders of the Hypo Bank Invitational running May 27-28.
The top-ranked women in the heptathlon are expected to lace up the track shoes next to Zelinka, including reigning world champion Caroline Kluft of Sweden and Commonwealth gold medalist Kelly Sotherton of England. Last year, Zelinka found trying to beat the best of the best was one of her main motivations.
"[Competing against the top athletes] was kind of what drove me last year," admitted Zelinka. "[I thought], 'Oh I'm here, this is where I belong. I've got to prove myself.' But I don't want that to be my motivation, because that can get out of hand easily. You lose control of things because sometimes your thoughts focus on the external factors. Having [the top athletes] beside me will definitely get me excited, but this time the motivation has to come from the inside."
If Zelinka can put all of her mental and physical training to work, she should have no problem continuing her ascension to the tops of her field and accomplishing her goal of a top six finish at this year's Hypo Bank. With all her credentials at the Canadian Interuniversity Sport level, including three Female Track and Field Athlete of the Year awards, a medal at this event will only pad an impressive resume and go a long way toward assuring Zelinka a spot on the Canadian Olympic squad in Beijing in 2008.