Olympian brings inspiration
London Community News
By Jonathon Brodie/London Community News / Twitter: @jonathonbrodie
Two-time Olympian Julia Wilkinson headed to Thames Park Pool Tuesday (Aug. 21) to help inspire kids the same way she was more than 10 years ago to help her reach for her goals.
The Stratford-native visited about 20 people from the Middlesex Swimming Club during their practice at the Ridout Street pool to pass off some small group knowledge to swimmers to go for some big time aspirations.
“You don’t have to be part of big swim to go to the Olympics,” Wilkinson said, spending her youth and teen years with the Stratford Swim Club training at the local YMCA.
The Stratford Team, where the now 25-year-old Wilkinson began her roots, was taken over by the Middlesex Swimming Club last fall, along with St. Mary’s swim group.
Her time after her local club, when she turned 18 years old, has included competing in the 2012 and 2008 Olympics in multiple swimming events, joining the Texas A&M swim team on a full-scholarship, breaking national swim records and being a part of Canadian swim teams in international events of all kinds.
The chance to meet some of her idols throughout her time at her local swimming organization as a youth only helped push her towards a career Wilkinson said she had always dreamt about since she can remember.
“I remember being at a meet in Hamilton and (three-time Olympian) Joanne Malar was giving out the medals and I was so excited that she was there. I was really nervous to ask her for an autograph, but I did,” Wilkinson reminisced. “Getting to meet her was really inspiring, so hopefully I can pass it on a bit.”
The tables have now turned and the small town athlete is the one motivating kids to big dreams.
“Some of these girls, or even some of the guys too, were just so excited to meet me they were like shaking and one girl cried and it was just so bizarre for me because I just see myself as a normal person,” Wilkinson said, about when she handed out medals, just like her idol did at one of her meets when she was a kid, Sunday (Aug. 19) at the Ontario Summer Games in Toronto.
The southwestern Ontario athlete very well may have touched someone at the Thames Park Pool as the Forest City swimmers took a timeout between laps to ask questions to Wilkinson and listen to her relay stories about when she was travelling with the Stratford Swim Team and some of her most intense moments at the Olympics.
“It makes kids believe they can do it,” said Johnny Hewerdine, founder of the Middlesex Swimming Club. “She sort of paves the way coming from Stratford, in a small town, making it to the Olympics and being that celebrity gives them the confidence.”
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