NCAA Champion and Olympian Julia Wilkinson Announces Retirement

PHOENIX, Arizona, February 15. JULIA Wilkinson, one of the best female swimmers to come from Canada, announced her retirement from competitive swimming today on her personal website.

In part of a lengthy post on her website, Wilkinson wrote: “When people ask me, 'Well, don't you want to go to Rio?' I don't know what to say. Of course I would love to represent Canada at another Olympics, but I know, in my heart, that I no longer have the drive to put in the work that is needed to get me there.”

Wilkinson has been one of the brightest stars on the Canadian swim team for about five years, making her breakout in 2008 when she qualified for the Olympic team in multiple events. She finished seventh in the 200 IM in Beijing and was part of the 400 free relay and 400 medley relays that also placed in the top eight.

That was the capper of a banner year for Wilkinson, who helped Texas A&M's women's team place fourth at the NCAA championships, their highest finish to date. At that meet, Wilkinson's top finish at the meet was second in the 100 freestyle.

After completing a medical redshirt in 2009 to heal from shoulder surgery, Wilkinson came back stronger to become the Aggies' first individual NCAA champion at the 2010 meet, winning the 100 free with a 47.61 in her senior year. That same year, she impressed at the Commonwealth Games, winning three bronze medals (200 IM, 100 back, 400 medley relay) in India.

Earlier in 2010, before her NCAA victory, Wilkinson appeared on an episode of “The Morning Swim Show” to talk about coming back from injury, and also surprised viewers with an impressive vocal and guitar performance of a Taylor Swift song:

At the 2011 world championships, Wilkinson finished eighth in the 200 IM final, shortly after swimming in a semifinal heat of the 100 backstroke. Her final competition was at the 2012 Olympics, where she advanced as high as the semifinals of the 100 freestyle and 100 backstroke.

Today's announcement comes just weeks after marrying her college sweetheart, baseball player Shane Minks, in a ceremony at College Station. Though she says she has no regret about the decisions she made in the name of swimming — including moving 2,000 miles from home to attend Texas A&M — she does realize she missed out on many family gatherings.

“I have been putting swimming first for as long as I can remember,” Wilkinson writes. “I did all of this because of swimming, and I have hard evidence as to where this type of sacrifice and hard work will get me. National titles, multiple trips to international finals, and even a few international medals. There was a time when all of these sacrifices were worth that, and this just isn't the time anymore.”

Wilkinson named dozens of teammates and coaches who guided her since her early days growing up in Stratford, Ontario, and later at Texas A&M and in her professional swimming days in Vancouver. Wilkinson's legacy lives on in the Canadian record books as the national record holder in the long course 50 backstroke, a 28.09 from the 2011 world championships. She is also a part of the national record 200 medley, 400 medley, 400 free and 800 free relays.