Have you ever wondered what's happening in Helsinki, Finland? No? Perhaps you should. You might have discovered that from Aug. 6-14 athletes with names spattered with diaereses and various other strange European alphabetic accents and five or so consecutive consonants gather for the 10th International Association of Athletics Federations World Championships in Athletics.
The event is held bi-annually in various cities around the globe and, though not common knowledge, made its last stop in Canada in 2001 in Edmonton. This summer's championship is particularly special for one University of Calgary student, Jessica Zelinka, who qualified for and competed in the heptathlon event.
Zelinka has been one of the top Dinos since commencing studies at the U of C. The communications and culture student was named Canadian Interuniversity Sport Female Track Athlete of the Year in 2003 and 2004, U of C Female Athlete of the Year in 2003, U of C Scholar Athlete of the Year in 2005 and has three consecutive Canada West Female Track Athlete of the Year titles.
Ladies from Ghana to Hungary qualified for this heptathlon event, but with a start list totaling 26 of the world's finest, the women were gonna have to be hungry to win. The seven tests to separate the women from the girls were the 100m hurdles, high jump, shot-put, 200m dash, long jump, javelin and 800m run.
The heptathlon began Sat., Aug. 6 with Zelinka getting a fabulous start. She ran the 100m hurdles in a blazing 13.48 seconds, just three hundredths of a second shy of the fifth fastest time. The high jump did not go as smoothly--her 1.70m jump dropped her to 15th in the cumulative rankings.
A throw of 13.64m--just 0.4m short of a top five finish--in the shot-put that afternoon put her in ninth, slingshoting her back to a cumulative 12th. Her final effort of the day, a sweet tasting fourth in the 200m dash, moved her up to eighth overall to close the first day of events.
The first event Sun., Aug. 7 saw Zelinka take a jump back to 12th overall following a disappointing performance in the long jump. Although no referees were injured, the javelin didn't pierce Zelinka's competitors' skin either, with her cumulative placing remaining the same.
The last chance came in the form of an 800m run, in which Zelinka posted a personal best 2:11.15, winning her heat and earning her third best time overall. Despite this feat, she moved up just one place in the cumulative rankings to 11th of 20 finishers.
However mediocre it may sound, this was spectacular considering the caliber of the competitors and tests they were put through just to qualify. Zelinka's score of 6097 points, albeit almost 800 points shy of gold, was just 16 points out of the top ten and less than 300 points fewer than bronze.