Wilkinson ready for anything

The last thing Julia Wilkinson sees before she hits the water is a tattoo on her foot that reads: ‘Sine Timore’. It’s a Latin phrase that translates to ‘without fear’.

“You never know what’s going to happen before you race,” said Wilkinson a 2008 Olympian and national record holder in 50-metre backstroke. “You have to be able to perform no matter what.”

Fearless, one could say.

It’s an attitude Wilkinson brings to the pool every day and displayed it in style at the recent Olympic Trials in Montreal winning three of four races in dominating fashion – including a sub 60-second performance in the 100m backstroke.

“Sometimes, I’m just sure that something great is going to happen,” Wilkinson said about delivering when it matters most. “I think, ‘OK it’s time to win’. It would be nice if I could always think that and it would always work, but that’s what makes those races special.”

This kind of confidence doesn’t come overnight. In fact, Wilkinson came very close to retirement following the 2008 Games after undergoing shoulder surgery.

“It was devastating,” she said about hearing her career was in jeopardy and being forced to the sidelines, watching her Canadian records and school (Texas A&M) records get broken. “At that moment I realized I was not ready to be done. I have so much more to do in this sport before I’m done.”

It was a defining moment for Wilkinson indeed, but also for Canadian swimming and, ultimately, for any Canadian following the recent success of the national program.

Under renowned coach Randy Bennett at the Victoria Swimming Academy, Wilkinson joins the likes of other elite Canadian athletes dedicated to reaching the Olympic podium, including medal hopeful Ryan Cochrane.

Wilkinson also lives with world-class triathlete Paula Findlay, with whom she shares the regimented lifestyle of an elite athlete. It’s a long way from her hometown of Stratford, Ont. where she grew up a dedicated swimmer in a small-town hockey community.

“I’ve just wanted to prove for a very long time that a kid from a town of 30,000 people in the middle of nowhere, with a four-lane, 25-yard pool can fight for an Olympic medal,” she said about where she found inspiration for a long time.

“That’s where it started from,” she said. “Now, I just get excited seeing what I can do.”

Canadians, too, are excited to see what Wilkinson can do in the Olympic pool after seeing her qualify Olympic times in the 100m backstroke, 100m freestyle, 4x100m freestyle and 200m individual medley.

“I’m not going back to the Olympics just to get the track suit,” she said. “I’m going with a purpose. Personal best times are not good enough anymore. If I wanted personal bests, I wouldn’t fly across the world to do it.”