VANCOUVER, B.C. Texas A&M senior-to-be Julia Wilkinson (Stratford, Ont.) continued her whirlwind year by winning three races, earning Olympic qualifying times in two new events, and breaking a Canadian national record at the Mel Zajac, Jr. International swim meet over the weekend.
On Saturday, Wilkinson, who is fast becoming the star of the 2008 Canadian Olympic swim team, set a new Canadian national record in the 50-meter backstroke. Her time of 28.63 eclipsed the old national record of 28.65 set by Jennifer Carroll at the 2003 World Championships. The time ranks Wilkinson No. 11 in the world in the race. She has now set three Canadian national records in the last two months.
"The race just felt awesome," Wilkinson said. "My finish wasn't strong in
the prelims so I knew if I improved that part I could potentially get the
record. I'm just so pleased it all worked out because 50-meter races are so hit and miss."
On the final day of the meet, Wilkinson broke the meet record in the
100-meter freestyle and earned the Olympic ?A¹ qualifying standard en route to a win over Canadian Olympic Trials champion and Canadian record holder Erica Morningstar. Wilkinson clocked a lifetime-best time of 55.05, breaking the old meet record of 55.17 set by American legend Jenny Thompson in 2000.
Morningstar, who is still searching for the Olympic ?A¹ standard in the
event this year, was second in 55.55.
The Big 12 Swimmer of the Year also set a new meet record and personal best in the 200-meter backstroke twice at the Zajac meet. After qualifying first in 2:12.75, Wilkinson lowered the meet record to 2:12.70 during the final the following morning, winning the race by almost exactly three seconds. The old meet record of 2:14.11 was set by Danielle Lewis of Australia in 1998.
Though Wilkinson did not contest the event during finals at the Canadian
Olympic Trials, she now becomes eligible to swim the race at the 2008
Olympics after bypassing the Olympic ?A¹ qualifying standard.
Wilkinson also recorded a new lifetime best of 4:52.07 during the prelims of the 400-meter individual medley. Wilkinson qualified third for the championship final at the Zajac meet in the 400 IM but did not swim the event, a race she very rarely competes in.
"This meet seemed a bit daunting because I was coming off some hard training but it turned out really well," Wilkinson said.
With the two new ?A¹ standards, it is possible for Wilkinson to swim a
Michael Phelps-like eight events at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.
The entire Canadian Olympic Team competed at the Zajac meet to help simulate the Olympic schedule which will feature championship finals during the morning sessions, as opposed to the usual night finals at practically all normal swim meets.