Local soccer star Christina Julien meets with Team Cornwall
Monday, August 27th, 2012
Christina Julien with Team Cornwall Chair Gilles Latour
Wearing the trademark red and white Team Canada jacket and sporting a smile, 24-year-old Christina Julien sat down with Team Cornwall to discuss life as a professional athlete, London 2012, and what it means to be an ambassador for her hometown.
Growing up in the Cornwall region, Christina did what many local children do – she played hockey.
“Growing up, my role model was (Canadian hockey sensation) Jayna Hefford,” said Christina. “Then of course, I started playing soccer and it became Christine Sinclair.”
It is serendipitous that Christina, now one of the world’s top female soccer players, has joined her idol Christine Sinclair as a member of Canada’s women’s national soccer team.
So how did this journey to professional athleticism come about?
After turning heads with her soccer skills during her younger years, Christina landed a scholarship to play NCAA soccer at the University in Virginia.
“I ended up having a really good junior year and then received an e-mail from the assistant coach of the National Team, who said as soon as possible we’d like to fly you out to Los Angeles. Within 3 hours I was packed and at the airport,” remembered Christina. “I arrived at 6 in the morning, with no sleep whatsoever, had 2 practices that day, and they ended up liking me and inviting me to stay.”
That stay resulted in competitions at the 2011 Women’s World Cup, 2011 Pan American Games, Olympic qualifying matches and a contract with the elite Swedish soccer league team, Jitex BK.
“I started in February in Sweden. I really love the culture there. The people are very friendly and accepting of me,” remarked Christina.
In comparing life in Sweden to her hometown of Cornwall, Christina remarks that Mölndal is “different in that it’s bigger and nobody speaks English! But it’s similar in that it’s a friendly atmosphere.”
As the only Canadian and one of the few English-speaking members of the team, it took some getting used to. “They don’t speak a lot of English, so that affected me a little, but it’s been a unique experience and I’ve loved it!”
Playing in league with many of the world’s best female soccer players has given Christina that extra edge, and helped land her a ticket to this summer’s London 2012 Olympic Games. As a member of Team Canada, Christina joined her teammates as they trained and competed their way to a bronze medal. While Christina did not make the Olympic roster this year, she was an integral part of realizing that goal – her efforts during the qualifying games were a deciding factor that helped put Team Canada on the path to the podium.
For the majority of us, the Olympic experience involves catching game highlights on television. For Christina, it became a first-hand experience.
“It was amazing… very surreal at times. Being in London was the perfect setup for someone from Canada. They speak English there!” joked Christina, alluding to her soccer league experience in Sweden.
Most of us will never set foot in the elite Olympic Village, where thousands of the world’s best athletes come together to live during the Olympic Games.
“I thought I would be more star-struck, but you get used to that feeling,” said Christina, regarding her encounters with the world’s top athletes. “You see someone famous walking around… and they were very nice and open to talking.”
Was there one athlete in particular she was hoping to meet?
“Usain Bolt… but I didn’t get the chance!” recalled Christina.
Ah, well, there’s always 2016.
While their time was dedicated mainly to training and traveling around London for games, Christina and her teammates were able to take in a few of the Olympic Games in person.
“The last three days we finally got to settle down and see a few of the events,” said Christina. “We went to the men’s soccer final (between Mexico and Brazil).”
By the end of the Olympics, the world watched as Canada showed off its 18 medals, including the bronze for women’s soccer. When asked about the Team Canada outfit worn at the closing ceremonies, Christina was all smiles.
“The jean jacket… so many comments about the jean jacket! Actually, a lot of people were wondering where they could buy one.”
The Team Canada gear stood out amongst the crowd, and many wanted to know more about the brand. She explained that a ritual amongst Olympians is to switch items of clothing; however, since the majority of nations are sponsored by either Adidas or Nike, many are unable to swap competing brands. But Team Canada gear is sponsored by the Hudson’s Bay Company, making them a popular choice amongst the other nations.
Overall, Christina’s Olympic experience was a positive and memorable one.
“London was amazing. The people there were super friendly, it was a great atmosphere, and the setup of the Olympic Village was great.”
What’s next for Christina?
Now that the Olympics and her contract with the Swedish Jitex BK have wrapped up, Christina is back home in Cornwall and focusing on rehabilitation and training.
“I ended up finishing all my contracts to come home and rehab here,” explained Christina. She continues to work with her long-time trainer, Jeff Gibbs, and takes advantage of the state-of-the-art facilities in the region.
“I’m the kind of athlete that looks for any advantage,” says Christina, referring to her upcoming mental training, which involves hand reaction and psychological anticipation. “When I Googled it, the closest facility seemed to be in Toronto… until I found out we have it right here in Cornwall at the Benson Centre.”
When she has the time, Christina would like to work on local mentoring.
“I haven’t had a chance to start local mentorships, but I do want to start working with kids who want to play and succeed in soccer.”
She praises the support she receives while back home, and credits her family as helping keep her grounded. Christina describes her mom as being her biggest cheerleader.
“[My] Dad is the same way… when I get hurt or I’m not playing well, he’s the guy I turn to. He brings me back to Earth. My sister is a big supporter, but not a big soccer fan! But it looks like she’s starting to be.”
So what’s it like to travel the world as a professional athlete while being an ambassador of your hometown?
“You get to go to all these places and represent Cornwall. It’s with you wherever you go. People will ask, and when I start bragging about home, they get interested. It’s great to bring that wherever you go.”
Fun Facts | Get to know her in a minute!
We wanted to find out a bit more about our local star. Here’s what she had to say:
What’s your favourite food? “Pizza… in town, Riverside!”
How many hours per day do you typically train? “In season, 3-4”
What’s on your iPod playlist? “Everything from country to old school Avril Lavigne to Lil Wayne”
What’s your favourite activity to do when home in the Cornwall area? “Boating on the river”
When you’re not on the soccer field or training, you can be found: “Outside, reading a book”
If you had 3 wishes, what would they be? “World peace and… this is a tough one! I think world peace is probably the big one!”
What’s been your favourite place to travel to in the world? “Norway, Budapest, and Switzerland”
What’s next for you? “Spending time here at home, going back to Europe in January, and then playing the Cyprus Cup in February”