Jamie Finlayson – An athlete's journey 

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Except for one thing. "I met a special girl that winter. We were set up by Eric Guay and Julien Cousineau." He stops. Takes a breath. Smiles. "Her name was Natalia Kaltenback and she was a member of the Ontario Ski Team." Another ear-to-ear grin. "We got along so well," he says. "For me, it was love at first sight..." I'm guessing Natalia was pretty impressed too. For it took barely a year for her to decide to move to the west coast. They were married in 2006 in Pemberton...

But where was I? Oh yeah... Jamie didn't give up on his ski racing dreams right away. But he knew in his heart that his quest to become a world-class racer was pretty much over. So he enrolled at Langara College, did some coaching with the WMSC... and gave his race points away. But he was still too much in love with the sport for a cold-turkey withdrawal. Still, he knew he'd have to let go eventually.

Highly-motivated athletes like Jamie often struggle with life after they retire from competition. But Finlayson was lucky. He had another sporting passion to focus on. "I've been addicted to climbing since I was introduced to it by my ski coach, Jason Blair, in 1995," he says. And shrugs. "Climbing has always come naturally to me. Being high up in the air like that — some people say it's scary, but I find it quite safe."

Time passed. Jamie eventually earned his undergraduate degree from UBC — he was even nominated as athlete of the year for his ski racing prowess on the collegiate circuit — and started work on a Master's thesis at SFU. "But the mountains kept calling," he says. And by 2007, he was ready to listen. "Natalia and I had a little place on False Creek. The market was really hot back then so we decided to sell it and buy a home in Squamish instead." That's when Jamie got really serious about climbing.

"Once we moved," he recounts, "I set a goal for myself. I wanted to be able to climb 5.14 within three years." Regrettably, there's no room here to go deep into the arcana of climbing terms. But let's just say that climbing overhanging pitches in the 5.14 range requires Spiderman-like skills.... and nerves of steel. "I lost 40 pounds when I quit ski racing," he says. And laughs. "Most of it was below the waist. So my climbing improved pretty fast." He smiles. "I finally reached my goal this summer... on a line called Pulse in the Cheakamus Canyon. That was very cool."

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