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It was also during this time that he met his future business partner. "Craig Glenday was my coach back then." A long pause. "I don't want to get ahead of myself," he says, "but ski racing has brought me everything: my career, my wife, my life even."
Hang on to that thought. We'll get back to it...
Meanwhile, young Jamie was steadily moving up the ski racing ladder. It wasn't easy. And it wasn't always smooth — injuries, growth spurts, bad races — they all played a part in his maturation as a high performance athlete. "I really didn't come into my own until I started racing FIS," he admits. "And even then, it was pretty intimidating to be competing from the back of the pack."
One particular Nor-Am level downhill remains etched in his memory. "It was in Lake Louise," he recounts. "And I drew the very last bib." He laughs. "It was minus 40°C and I was standing at the top trying to stay warm when I noticed that the volunteers were already dismantling the start hut." More laughter. "It certainly put things in perspective for me."
But the young racer refused to be denied. By the winter of '97-'98, Finlayson was a member of the Junior National Team. "That was such a rush," he says. "Suddenly you're training and racing with your heroes — you know, people like Thomas Grandi and Brian Stemmle. It was a really exciting time."
The next year, he says, the junior team even got bigger... and better. "A whole new group of talented skiers joined us. Guys like JP Roy, and Eric Guay and Julien Couisneau." He sighs. "It was a really fun year, you know. But it was also frustrating." It was all about the gear, he says, and who got the fast stuff. "Unfortunately that wasn't me."
Alas for Jamie, that was the least of his worries. "I was 18-years old when I was diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis," he says. A genetic disorder that attacks your spine and joints — in essence a chronic inflammatory arthritis — the debilitating disease first struck the young racer during a summer training camp at Mt. Hood. "By the time I got back from that trip," he says, "I could barely walk!" Jamie was then subjected to a battery of tests and MRIs. "I was finally diagnosed with AS and I was prescribed anti-inflammatories." He sighs deeply. Shrugs. "It wasn't awesome, I can tell you. I was just getting on track with my ski racing when this hit..."
But Jamie is nothing if not determined. "I was still on the junior squad for the '99-2000 season." And then he laughs. "There were just two of us on the team that year — me and Jan Hudec." Still, his new medical situation brought all sorts of complications for the Whistlerite. "It was really annoying," he says. "I couldn't train as hard as I wanted to anymore — and I saw that my racing suffered for it." He was still skiing well, mind you. Just not fast enough to remain on the Canadian team. "It was a disappointing year all around," he admits.
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