THE CANADIAN PRESS
BEIJING — Jessica Zelinka set a Canadian record on her way to a sixth-place finish in the women’s heptathlon Saturday at the Beijing Olympics.
The 26-year-old from London, Ont., scored 6,490 points in her Olympic debut, and her sixth-place finish equalled the best ever by a Canadian female multi-events athlete at an Olympic Games.
"I wanted to get 6,500, I was 10 points off, it’s still a great score, I’m really happy with my personal bests, and the other ones weren’t bad either," Zelinka said afterwards. "I finished it strong and I was really happy with that."
Zelinka ended the competition with a personal-best time of two minutes 7.95 seconds in the 800 metres, one of four personal bests she recorded over the two long days of the gruelling event. She also achieved personal bests in the 100-metre hurdles, 200 metres, and javelin.
Her Olympic feat tied Diane Jones-Konihowski as best ever, Jones-Konihowski finishing sixth in the 1976 Olympics in what was then the pentathlon.
Nataliia Dobrynska of Ukraine won the event with 6,733 points, led with 5,878 points, compatriot Lyudmila Blonska was second with 6,700 and American Hyleas Fountain third with 6,619.
The Canadians were held off the podium in 2000 in Sydney and 2004 in Athens, recording just three sixth-place finishes four years ago in Greece.
Zelinka’s performance comes on the heels of a fourth-place finish the previous night by Dylan Armstrong of Kamloops, B.C. Armstrong missed a medal in the shot put by just one centimetre in a Canadian record performance.
Earlier Saturday, Carline Muir of Toronto is through to the semifinal of the women’s 400 metres at the Beijing Olympics.
The 20-year-old Muir ran a personal best 51.55 seconds on the second day of blue sky at the Bird’s Nest stadium on Saturday morning to finish third in her heat and move on to Sunday’s semifinal.
"I pushed hard right to the end. It was an awesome way to start my first Olympic experience," Muir said.
Italy’s Libania Grenot won the heat in 50.87, while American Sanya Richards ran 50.54 for the fastest time of the day.
Kelsie Hendry of Saskatoon failed to advance out of the qualifying round in the women’s pole vault. She cleared 4.30 metres, but missed on all three attempts at 4.40.
"The experience I earned is great but my performance wasn’t," Hendry said. "I have to take what I can from this and just learn."