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Meet Nicole Wilkins

For as long as I can remember, I have always been athletic. I started with ballet when I was five, then moved on to dancing and cheer leading. Growing up, I was usually outside riding bikes or climbing trees – you would rarely catch me inside playing with dolls. My competitive career started early, when I dove into gymnastics at age seven and continued through high school as a gymnast and track and field standout. But it was two unfortunate events in particular that led me to another area of interest – the weight room. The first happened when I was 15, when I tore the medial meniscus in my left knee and had to go in for surgery. Since I was still young, the doctors decided to try to stitch the injured area instead of removing the torn cartilage. Many months later – which included six weeks on crutches – I was finally back to normal … at least I thought. I was wrong. One year later, the tear was back, and worse.

A NEW CHAPTER

After my second surgery, I was determined not to dwell on the negative. I knew I needed to move forward, and the weight room was my way to do just that. During that time, I never missed a gymnastics practice even though I could only work out on the uneven parallel bars. For the rest of the four-hour workout sessions, I strength trained. I started to see my upper body changing shape very quickly, and I loved it. My coach was a powerlifter, so he taught me how to squat, power clean and deadlift with proper form as soon as my knee was back in working condition. In 2002, I competed in gymnastics at the Arnold Sports Festival – when it was still called the Arnold Classic – in Columbus, Ohio. One of the professional fitness competitors, Laura Mak, was a previous gymnast of my current coach, so we all went to the finals to watch. Sitting there, amazed and awed by the fitness competitors, I knew that one day I wanted to compete on that stage. In my heart, I knew I would be there one day – I just didn’t know where to start.

By the time I was a senior in high school, I knew I was not going to continue with gymnastics in college. I was having much more fun in the gym and was ready to see where that journey would lead. I continued to compete as a pole vaulter and sprinter on my high school track team and was still very active, but since I wasn’t working out for 20-plus hours a week like I was in gymnastics, I started putting on a little extra weight. It was then that I began to read more and more about proper nutrition and became interested in the overall wellness of the body. I went on to get my BA in Wellness, Health Promotion and Injury Prevention with a minor in Exercise Science from Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. During my four years there, I worked in the recreation department, conducting fitness assessments and creating workout programs for individuals of all specific needs. I also workout out on my own, five to six times a week. If you were ever in the Rec, you could pretty much guarantee that I would be there! During my sophomore year in college, I decided to prepare for my first Fitness competition. I had my best friend, a Detroit Pistons dancer, help me with my routine choreography and I would practice on the gymnastics gym floor after work. That first contest was in November 2003. I won. But more than that, I knew I had found my passion.

FOLLOWING MY DREAMS

The following year, as a junior in college, I competed in five more competitions, alternating between the Fitness and Figure divisions. Over the next three years, I slowly worked my way up the ranks, moving from the local/regional to the national level, determined to get my pro card and gain entry into the IFBB Professional League. In July of 2007, I did just that at the prestigious NPC Team Universe Championships in New York City. Since I was still undecided on whether to focus on Fitness or Figure, I decided to cross over and compete in both categories (that year’s Team Universe was the last time competing in two divisions was allowed). I ended up winning the Overall in both categories, beating out over 200 women from across the nation to win my pro card! It was the first time in history that a competitor had won both Fitness and Figure Overall titles at the same national-level contest. One year later – and six years after watching as a wide-eyed high school junior – I was back in Columbus making my professional debut, realizing my dream of stepping on stage as an IFBB competitor at the Arnold Classic.

LIFE AS A PRO … AND BEYOND

Success in the IFBB hasn’t come easy for me. I’ve had ups and downs, but have enjoyed every minute of my 16 year journey competing. Some of the highlights:

  • Four-time IFBB Figure Olympia champion, winner of the most titles in history (2009, 2011, 2013-2014)
  • Only IFBB Figure Competitor to compete in the Olympia 10x in a row
  • Top 5 placement in 9 out of 10 IFBB Figure Olympia competitions.
  • Youngest competitor to win the Figure Olympia (25 in 2009)
  • Three-time Figure International champion (2010-2012)
  • The first competitor to reclaim the Figure Olympia title (2011)
  • The first competitor to reclaim any Olympia title two times (2013)
  • The only competitor to hold Figure Olympia and Figure International titles in the same calendar year (2011)
  • The first to win five professional figure contests in one season
  • The first to win Overall titles in two divisions at a pro-qualifying event (Team Universe Fitness Overall and Figure National Overall 2007)

Being a part of the IFBB has given me opportunities I could never have imagined, and has taken me all over the world – from New York City to California, from Spain to India, from Australia to Finland and more. And what I’ve realized is that, as much as I enjoy competing and being on stage, what I truly love is being fit, spreading the word on health and fitness and being able to have a positive influence on people’s lives.