Jessica Zelinka of London, Ont., seventh at the 2012 Olympic Games in the heptathlon and in the 100-metre hurdles, will race the women’s invitational 60-metre hurdles at the AC Indoor Open March 14 to 16 in Montreal.
A talented and highly decorated athlete, Jessica competed at the last two Olympic Games. She holds the Canadian record in the heptathlon, has won seven national titles, a Pan American Games gold medal, silver at the 2010 Commonwealth Games and placed 5th at the 2008 Olympic Games. After moving to Montreal in the fall, the AC Indoor Open is an opportunity for her to compete in front of friends and family in her new hometown.
AC: In the past six months you moved back to Canada and are currently based in Montreal. How did this come about?
JZ: We lived in Connecticut for a year, where my husband was head coach and administrator of a water polo club. I was a stay-at-home mom minus a couple of hours of training a day. I was able to manage this for the year just training for hurdles because I was taking a break from the heptathlon and using it as a year to “decompress” before rebooting for another Olympic cycle. Knowing I’d be back into full heptathlon training the following year, it would have been nearly impossible to train there due to lack of facility access and my husband’s non-conventional work hours. Knowing that we’d eventually like to settle back in Canada, my husband applied for a job that happened to be posted at that time with the Canadian Olympic Committee in Montreal. We have family and friends in Montreal and it was closer to the lifestyle we were looking for, so when Nathaniel got the position it was an easy sell.
AC: Being a parent and athlete can be a difficult balance, how’s your current training and living situation in Montreal? What’s the schedule of a typical training day for you like?
JZ: One thing that has been a real benefit to our family is the subsidized day care program ($7/day daycare – Vive le Québec!). Seriously though, affordable daycare has been a huge help and Anika is really enjoying having friends of her own and being able to speak French at school!
A typical day starts with breakfast with my daughter before we head off for the short walk to daycare. When I get back I pack up for my morning training session at Claude-Robillard, only a 5-7 minute drive away. In the morning I usually do weights for an hour. Before my afternoon training session I go home to eat lunch and sometimes have time for a quick nap or time to do work. My afternoon track sessions are a few hours long and by the time I’m finished it’s time to pick up Anika from school. It ends up being pretty jam packed, but I no longer feel rushed in training (and I’m never stuck in Montreal traffic!). I’m getting solid hours of training in, probably more than ever before. I train Monday-Saturday, twice/day for three days a week. On the days I don’t train twice a day, I walk one block from my house to my massage therapist, or a few more blocks to the Ovarium Spa for a “Bain Flottant” (a bath with so much Epsom salt that you float!). I also make sure to see my other therapists, who are all recognized by the INS (Quebec institute of Sport) where I have a budget to help cover these sessions (which has been amazing). The area we live in also makes it easier to keep to our healthy eating lifestyle with our hectic schedules. A huge indoor and outdoor farmer’s market is a few blocks away, a few blocks in another direction is a gluten-free bakery and a natural health food store, and there are numerous affordable small authentic restaurants sprinkled throughout the area that have quick and healthy options for families/athletes on the go!
I’m starting to sound like a tourism commercial for Montreal…
But really, considering everything, it has been a fairly easy transition and I think it’s mainly due to the convenience of the area we’re living in, having family here to help out, and for me feeling genuinely welcomed by the track community and others who have offered to help in any way. I also feel like I’m very fortunate to have found a really great support team already in Montreal, which makes such a big difference, especially when I don’t have my main coach present on a day-to-day basis because he lives in Kansas.
AC: What are your goals coming into 2014?
JZ: To compete for Canada in the heptathlon and hopefully, the 100-metre hurdles at the Commonwealth Games. Stay healthy, build confidence in my events, and seek out sponsors and community support to help me through to the 2016 Olympic Games so I’m not in a position where I need to rely on outside funding.
AC: What are you most looking forward to at the AC Indoor Open?
JZ: I’m looking forward to competing on my new home turf. When there are efforts to host higher-level competitions like this in Canada, my coach and I try to make it work because it’s a great opportunity to compete on Canadian soil, to promote our sport, and inspire the next generation. Although I’ll be out of my competitive phase of training, I’m still looking forward to having a great race in Montreal in front of a home crowd!
AC: Which aspect(s) of your fitness or technique are you focusing on during your current training and how are trying to improve them?
JZ: Fitness has never been a weakness of mine, the funny thing is that I’m feeling quite fit these days. I think this has a lot to do with the new program I started with my coach Cliff Rovelto. Since the fall there has been a very logical progression in his training program and my body has responded very well to it. I get nervous when I’m not doing a lot of technical sessions, but I’ve found so far with Cliff’s program that I’ve had to be very patient and re-visit the basics first and respect the natural progression of things. That means lots and lots of approach runs in both the long jump and high jump, gradually preparing my body with progressive plyometric drills before even thinking of jumping into the pits. I’ve really enjoyed this change of focus, because it has given me a better understanding of the events as a whole, and a lesser focus on the narrow technical aspects of each event. I know sometimes if I make it more mechanical, I’m less able to tap into the flow of the movements. With one of my 2014 goals being to build confidence in my events, this will come with reacquainting myself with the rhythms and flow of these events, and freeing myself to compete without over-analysis.
The 2014 AC Indoor Open takes place in Montreal, Que., March 14 – 16 at Centre Claude-Robillard. The event serves as a Canadian Championship for youth and junior athletes and will feature a number of Olympians and World Championship national team members in invitational events. For more information and to register for the inaugural AC Indoor Open visit www.indoors.athletics.ca
Read Athletics Illustrated – Jessica Zelinka Interview Here