Zelinka ran a blistering 800 metres in Saturday's final event of the heptathlon but it wasn't enough to put her on the podium at the London Olympic Games. The 30-year-old finished seventh with 6480 points.
"I ran hard knowing I wasn't going to get a medal regardless,'' Zelinka, who was third after Friday's opening day of competition, told The Globe and Mail. "I just wanted to run hard.''
[Slideshow: A closer look at the Olympic heptathlon]
It was an emotional end to what might be Zelinka's final Olympic heptathlon, a gruelling seven-discipline event. Known for her rippling muscles, Zelinka showed her soft side by breaking into tears in the interview area. She looked for comfort from her husband and three-year-old daughter.
Zelinka also might have been Canada's last hope for a medal in track at the Games. Shot-putter Dylan Armstrong finished fifth Friday.
A sellout crowd of 80,000 roared their approval as Jessica Ennis of Great Britain won the heptathlon gold medal with 6955 points.
Brianne Theisen of Humboldt, Sask., showed she could be a factor in the 2016 Olympics by finishing 11th with 6383 points.
Zelinka came into the London Games as a medal contender. She was fifth at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and her Canadian record score of 6599 points, set at the Olympics trials in June, was the fourth-best score in the world this year.
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Zelinka dug herself a hole Friday with a poor performance in the high jump. She was eighth going into the 800 metres after Saturday's long jump and javelin. The London, Ont., native was second in the 800 metres in two minutes, 9.15 seconds but it wasn't good enough for a medal.
"It was over after that," Zelinka said about the high jump and long jump. "It's just too many points.
"You can't regain that by beating people by two metres in shot put or taking 10 seconds off the 800. You just can't make up those points.''
Zelinka had three personal bests and three season's best showings in the competition.
"I don't know what to make of it," she said. "Because five of the seven [events] were exactly what I wanted to do. Five out of seven isn't bad. But in heptathlon the jumps are not forgiving. At all."
The 23-year-old Theisen said London was a huge learning experience.
"I was telling Jessica, I wasn't prepared for this," Theisen said. "Physically I was, but mentally, there's no way to prepare for this.
"I'm young. I have a lot to learn and I need to get out and do some more international heptathlons and get a feel for this group and how these things work."
Zelinka won't have much time to rest before competing in the 100-metre hurdles, which begin Monday.
"I'm just going to go out there and run," she said. "And not have to worry. It's so easy compared to the heptathlon. Even if I'm totally beat up, which I am, I'm just running for 12 seconds."