Gutsy Genest narrowly misses steeplechase final

Alex Genest came up just short in the first day of track and field competition at the London Olympics.

His tactics were perfect, but Alex Genest came up just short of making the final in the first round of the 3000m steeplechase, Friday at the Olympic stadium in London.

Genest of Lac-Aux-Sables, Que., ran the race in the middle of the pack, never letting the leaders get away, finishing a close seventh in a season-best 8:22.62. He was less than a second away from advancing to Sunday’s final.

“I am so happy. I ran a great race, did exactly what I wanted to do,” Genest said. “Just missed on time, I was right there. I have to be happy.”

Genest arrived at the start line physically fit and in the right frame of mind to compete well in an event dominated by the Kenyans. With 300m remaining, a slight grimace became visible on his face, as he attempted to stay with the leaders over the final water jump.

“That was great to see @papaG_steeple mix it up all the way to the finish,” tweeted Speed River teammate Reid Coolsaet. “The future looks bright!”

Two Americans, including U.S. record holder Evan Jager, qualified for Sunday’s final. Kenya’s Ezekiel Kemboi will attempt to defend his Olympic title.

Jessica Zelinka struggles in High Jump

After the first morning of the heptathlon competition, Canadian medal hopeful Jessica Zelinka has already experienced her share of highs and lows.

Zelinka set a personal best in the 100m hurdles in 12.65 seconds, but she only cleared 1.68m in the high jump — 11cm short of her best. She dropped from second place to 19th after the high jump, which is the second of seven events in the competition. Zelinka’s score of 2,008 points is well behind Great Britain’s Jessica Ennis, who leads with 2,249.

Brianne Theisen of Humboldt, Sask., didn’t appear to be affected by the rain, clearing 1.83m, and sits eighth with 2,096 points. The shot put and the 200m are later on Friday to conclude Day 1 of the heptathlon.

Dylan Armstrong goes for a medal

As expected, shot putter Dylan Armstrong of Kamloops, B.C., qualified for Friday’s final. Armstrong, one of Canada’s best chances for a gold medal in London, posted a mark of 20.49m in the preliminary round.

“I’ve had thousands of throws leading to this,” said Armstrong. “Goal is a podium tonight. That would mean everything to me, Kamloops and Canada.”

Jenna Martin advances to 400m semis

In her first Olympic race, Jenna Martin of Bridgewater, N.S., stormed down a rain-soaked track to finish third in her 400m heat in 51.98 seconds. Martin got out quickly over the first 200m and made sure she maintained her form on the home stretch to claim the third spot, qualifying automatically.

“At this level it comes down to the finish,” she said. “I kept pushing, gave everything I had. When it came to 100m left I knew I had it.”

Later on Friday, Nate Brannen of Cambridge, Ont., begins his Olympic journey in the heats of the men’s 1500m. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for the latest updates from the Olympic track and field competition in London.