Julia Wilkinson is a Canadian backstroke, freestyle and individual medley swimmer. She has been a member of the Canadian National Swim Team since 2006, and represented Canada at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. She currently holds the Canadian record in the 50-meter backstroke and is a member of four Canadian record holding relay teams. To this point in her career, Julia has won twenty-two Canadian National Titles, twenty individual Big XII Championships, an NCAA title, and has medaled six times on the international stage.
Julia Rose Wilkinson was born on June 12, 1987, in Stratford, Ontario. Her mother Mary enrolled her in swimming lessons before she could walk. Mary is an English teacher, and Julia's father, Mark, is a family doctor. Mark was a natural athlete, playing both hockey and baseball. Julia has one older sister, Jane, who swam at the CIS level (at McMaster University and Université Laval). Growing up, Julia played multiple sports, and began swimming competitively for the Stratford Kinsmen Y Aquatic Club at the age of eight. From the time she started swimming competitively, she dreamed of going to the Olympics.
In her final year of high school, Julia moved to Toronto to train under coach Murray Drudge at the North York Aquatic Club. She attended the Interact Program at Vaughan Road Academy, an independent-learning program designed to help aspiring dancers, musicians, actors, and athletes balance schoolwork and their extra-curricular goals. Under the coaching of Drudge, Julia won the gold medal in the 200-meter freestyle at the 2005 Canada Summer Games in Regina, Saskatchewan.
In fall of 2005, Julia Wilkinson started her freshman year on a swimming scholarship at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas. In her first season as an Aggie, she won the 100-yard backstroke at the 2006 Big XII Championships. In 2007, she helped the Aggies bring home their first ever Big XII Conference Title when they defeated the University of Texas Longhorns by a single point (931-930).
Wilkinson's break-out season came in 2008, when she was named both Big XII Conference Swimmer of the Meet (winning the 100-yard freestyle, 100-yard backstroke and 200-yard IM) as well as Big XII Conference Swimmer of the Year when she placed 2nd in the 100-yard freestyle, 3rd in the 200-yard freestyle, and 6th in the 200-yard IM at the NCAA Championships in Columbus, Ohio. She helped propel the Texas A&M Aggies to their highest NCAA finish ever (4th).
In 2009, Wilkinson received a medical-redshirt after she was forced to have shoulder surgery due to a SLAP tear in her shoulder. She did manage to come back and swim at the 2009 World Championships in Rome that summer but failed to make any individual finals.
In 2010, Julia won the 100-yard freestyle at the NCAA Championships, making her the first swimmer in Texas A&M history to win a National Championship. She also placed second in the 200-yard IM and third in the 200-yard freestyle. These strong finishes capped off an amazing senior year in which Julia was named Big XII Conference Swimmer of the Meet, Big XII Swimmer of the Year, and the Texas A&M Outstanding Letterman. She still holds the Texas A&M school records in the 200-yard freestyle, 200-yard IM and 800-yard freestyle relay and was undefeated in the 100-yard backstroke all four years that she competed at the Big XII Conference Meet.
At the 2008 Olympic Trials, Julia Wilkinson won and set new Canadian records in the 100-meter backstroke and 200-meter freestyle. She also won the 200-meter IM and placed second in the 100-meter freestyle. In total, she qualified for eight events for the 2008 Olympics: 100-meter freestyle, 200-meter freestyle, 100-meter backstroke, 200-meter backstroke, 200-meter IM, 400-meter freestyle relay, 400-meter medley relay, and the 800-meter freestyle relay.
At the Olympic Games, Wilkinson broke the Canadian record in the semi-final of the 200-meter individual medley and qualified for her first Olympic final. She finished seventh in the event. She also swam in the semi-final of the 100-meter backstroke and tied for 16th in the 100-meter freestyle, but opted out of the swim-off in order to better prepare for the 800-meter freestyle relay. Both Canada's 400-meter freestyle and 400-meter medley relays also qualified for the Olympic final.
2010 Commonwealth Games
After Wilkinson graduated from Texas A&M University in May of 2010, she returned to Canada to swim at the Victoria Academy of Swimming under coach Randy Bennett. Bennett coached Wilkinson to her first ever international podium performance: a bronze medal in the 200-meter IM at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi, India. Wilkinson also won a bronze in the 100-meter backstroke and 400-meter medley relay at the same meet.
Julia Wilkinson graduated Magna Cum Laude from Texas A&M University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication with minors in English and Sport Management. She currently has a blog with CBC sports and also writes for the Canadian publication SwimNews. Julia is an active writer and public speaker, and hopes to work in media when she retires from swimming.
Julia is currently engaged to her college sweetheart, Shane Minks. The pair met when they were both getting treatment for shoulder pain caused by their respective sports. Minks was a member of the Texas A&M baseball team from 2007-2010, before playing two seasons in the Tampa Bay Rays minor league system. The pair plans to tie the knot in early 2013.
When not in the pool, Julia enjoys playing the guitar, reading, shopping, and hanging out with her friends and family. Although she now lives in British Columbia, she tries to return to Ontario during her time off to see her family and spend time in her hometown. After she arrived home from the Olympics, York Street Sandwiches in Stratford named a sandwich after her, which runs occasionally as a special. Julia also has a hedgehog named Roxanne (Roxy for short).