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Canada has two very real medal threats at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games in women’s heptathlon; they are Jessica Zelinka of London, Ontario and Brianne Theisen-Eaton from Humboldt, Saskatchewan.
Twenty-five-year-old Theisen-Eaton was one of the best NCAA division 1 athletes. She competed for the University of Oregon Ducks and while there she broke several school records and won back-to-back NCAA heptathlon titles in 2009 and 2010. She is a five-time NCAA champion including being a part of a winning 4 x 400 metre relay team.
She was the Canadian national champion in 2009 and competed in the IAAF World Track and Field Championships that same year. She has since competed in the 2012 London Olympic Games, but finished just out of the medals.
Theisen-Eaton is now Canada’s top competitor in the heptathlon and women’s pentathlon (indoors). She broke Zelinka’s national record on June 1st of 2014 by amassing a total of 6641 points at the Hypo meet in Gotzis, Austria. She also owns the Canadian indoor record with her 4768 points performance from the 2014 IAAF World Indoor Track and Field Championships that took place is Sopot, Poland in March. She is the only Canadian woman to medal at the world championships in combined events, which she did twice earning silver both at the 2014 indoor and 2013 outdoor championships.
Theisen-Eaton is one of the favourites to win gold among the 50 Canadian athletes attending the Glasgow games. Currently she is second in world ranking for 2014 behind British athlete Katarina Johnson-Thomson.
Zelinka earned gold at the 2007 Rio Pan-American Games and followed that up by winning silver at the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games. She came heartbreakingly close to medalling during the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games by finishing fifth overall, then seventh in the 2012 London Olympic Games in both the heptathlon as well as the 100m hurdles, which is also an event within the heptathlon. She finished fourth in the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games. She twice held the Canadian senior record for points, first from the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games where she achieved a total of 6490 points then during the 2012 Canadian Track and Field Championships where she ran up a point total of 6599.
The world record for the heptathlon is held by American Jackie Joyner-Kersee with her total of 7291 points from the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games. The top current performance stands at second all-time by Swede Carolina Kluft with her total of 7032 from 2007 – she won three consecutive world championship golds back-to-back-to-back. The top Olympic result to date came from Jessica Ennis-Hill from the 2012 London Olympic Games with her performance of 6955, which stands at fifth all-time. The 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games gold was won by Great Britain’s Louise Hazel.
Zelinka happens to also be a very strong hurdler and owns a personal best time of 12.65. The Canadian record is 12.46, which is owned by Pickering, Ontario’s Perdita Felicien. Canada has recently had four world-class female hurdlers that were able to compete at the highest level at the same time with Scarborough, Ontario’s Priscilla Lopes-Schliep as a top international athlete, her best is 12.49, while Angela Whyte of Edmonton, Alberta owns a best of 12:52. Whyte will also compete in the Glasgow games in the 100mh.
The veteran Zelinka and Theisen-Eaton are both ultimately aiming for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games as their long-term goal. The Commonwealth Games are important on their own performance-wise and are also an important stepping-stone towards Rio, as well as upcoming IAAF World Track and Field Championships that take place every-other-year. Meanwhile both athletes are focused on Glasgow as they are genuine medal threats for these Commonwealth Games.