Julia Tunks, Canadees werptalent met Hollandse roots

door Jan Lips 


Lieja Koeman (1976) behoort tot de betere kogelstootsters die Nederland heeft gekend. In 2000 en 2004 deed ze mee aan de Olympische Spelen. Haar pr staat op 18.82.

In 2003 trouwde ze met de Canadese discuswerper Jason Tunks (pr 67.88) en kreeg vervolgens de Canadese nationaliteit. Twintig jaar later blijkt hun dochter Julia (16) een groot discustalent.

London NewsToday.ca maakte een reportage, opgemerkt door ons redactielid in Canada Jan Lips.


Like father, like daughter: Child of Olympian dominates in the discus


London-based athlete Julia Tunks is following in her father's footsteps as a top contender worldwide in the discus throw.

Just three years into her throwing career, the 16-year-old is the top-ranked women's discus thrower in Canada. Tunks threw the discus 59.11 metres at a recent track meet in Oklahoma, earning her the title of two-time Canadian record holder in both the under 18 and under 20 age categories.

As it turns out, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Julia's father, Jason Tunks, is one of the most notable Canadian discus throwers of all time. He represented Canada at the Olympics three times, finishing in 6th place in Sydney 2000. He holds the Canadian national record for open men's discus at 67.88m, set in 1998.

Julia's mother, Lieja Koeman, is also a renowned thrower. She competed in two Olympic games for shot put, representing the Netherlands.

While Julia can hold her own in the shot put, having launched the four-kilogram ball over 14m, discus is her event of choice.

The discus throw is a track and field event in which an athlete throws a metal disc - called a discus - as far as they can. The general technique involves spinning around one-and-a-half times to build momentum before releasing the discus into the field. As with most track and field events, discus throwing requires strength, speed, athleticism, and technical expertise.

Julia believes it's her technique that helps her throw so far, but her dad says she's the total package.

"She has a lot of my attributes - and I hate tooting my own horn - but I was extremely athletic, I was extremely strong when I threw, and she has all of those attributes. She’d never say it, but she’s very strong," Jason said.

She stands over 5'11" at the age of 16.

"She’s very fast. She’s very explosive," Jason continued. "From a technical standpoint, she’s one of the best technicians in the world, clearly for her age, and then even into the college level."

Julia Tunks throws the discus while her father and former Olympian Jason Tunks watches. Photo courtesy of Julia Tunks.

The former Olympian says he never pushed any of his children into becoming a thrower, it's something he allowed them to decide for themselves.

"Julia chose it naturally and she was very good from the start," Jason said of his eldest daughter. "When I used to compete I would take her with me, and she did stand throws with my 2kg disc when I was warming up, so she already kind of understood what she was doing."

Some good old-fashioned sibling rivalry is what pushed Julia to start training in discus. When her step-brother went to Jason for help with his throwing, she also wanted in on the action.

"I wasn't going to let him be better than me," Julia admitted.

Nowadays, Julia follows an intensive training schedule that includes throwing along with four or five days in the weight room and hours of "drills, drills, drills." It seems all of the athletes hard work is paying off.

Julia's high school track and field season wrapped up over the weekend with the standout athlete taking home the OFSAA gold in both of her events and breaking the meet record in the discus. With the high school season out of the way, Julia will now set her sights on two major feats this summer - competing in the Open Nationals and at the Pan American Games.

Competing for the London Western Track and Field Club, Julia will face off against all ages at the Open Nationals and is expected to represent Canada at the elite international competition in Puerto Rico.

In the longer-term, Julia will try for the Olympics in 2024. Jason believes his daughter will be a multi-Olympian, just like himself.

Starting in the fall of 2024, Julia will attend the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and compete in their Division 1 track and field program. The 11th grader committed to UCLA earlier this year. She referred to the university as her dream school saying, "I wanted to go there since I was little." The moment she stepped on campus, Julia knew it was the place for her.

The Tunks duo agrees that the school is a great environment for the young athlete and she has been welcomed with open arms. The coach seems like a great fit too, having already agreed to let Jason continue having his say in his daughter's training plan.

Together, Julia and Jason have mastered the art of navigating a coach-athlete relationship while respecting their parent-child relationship as well.

Jason explained how it feels to see his daughter excel in the same field that he did.

“It’s pride, right?" Jason shared. "To be fair, you want your children to be more successful than you were, it doesn’t have to be in the same avenue, but the fact that she’s taking it to heart and having a lot of success with it is great.”

Julia's younger sister, Jenna, is another up-and-comer to watch out for. The 6'1" 13-year-old girl is currently ranked second nationally in the under 20 age category just behind her sister, having thrown the discus over 44m.