Sixteen-year-old Finlay Wilson had a brilliant Winter Youth Olympic Games, with personal best performances throughout the Alpine Skiing competition.
We caught up with the France based skier, who has strong Cookstown links.
- Describe your Youth Olympic experience here in Gangwon.
These Winter Youth Olympic Games here in Korea have been great, a really fun experience. I got to meet new people that I haven’t seen before, and got to speak to loads of different nations, see the atmosphere of the Olympics and really, just everything’s crazy. Being in Asia for a start is on the other side of the world for me, and it’s a once in a lifetime experience. I’m very happy.
- How did you get involved in skiing?
I was living in England at the start until the age of four, but my parents had an apartment in Chamonix, France, and they used to bring me there every winter for a bit of skiing. My first time skiing was at the early age of 17 months, so I was really young, and I’m grateful for that because it’s given me a passion for skiing and it’s brought me here. So I’m very grateful. Ever since then I’ve been on skis every winter until the age of five and then I moved to France and went to school there. I’ve basically lived my whole life in France. I’m now fluent in French, so I’ve a very good life, it’s a nice town. At first I joined a club called AKI Club and then three years ago I moved down to the bigger club in Chamonix, the Chamonix Ski Club where they’ve really pushed me to a higher level.
Coming into this year, I’ve come into a level of skiing where it’s more international, so bigger races. And sadly, my local ski club didn’t have a group for me to train with, so I had to look out elsewhere. And I found Ski Zenit, which is based in Saas-Fee during the summer and in Zinal during the winter. And I’ve got two wonderful coaches named Nuria and Reya, they’re Spanish and they really push me five days a week. They’ve got my progress level in the right direction and I thank them a lot and can’t wait to see what to bring for the rest of the season. And of course, after these games with four personal bests, it’s a very good Games for me.
- Tell us about your summer training.
I do mountain biking during the summer to help me prepare for my skiing, and to build strength. It is very good because it gives me agility, and gives me speed. When you do mountain biking, you go downhill as well. You go fast and it trains your reflexes, which is very good for skiing because you go downhill as well. So, it is a good mix and I know a lot of people who do both sports, so I think it’s a good choice.
- What about your winter training programme?
When I’m training in the winter, a typical day is to wake up at 7 or 7:30am, I go to the mountain at 09:00 and do a good warmup because we don’t want any injuries. Warming up prevents injury in my ligaments and muscles. Then we hop on the skis and do a couple of drills and warm-up runs, and then we go into a course. Depending on the day, training varies from six to maybe 13 runs in the morning and then that’s all. I don’t do more than four hours of skiing a day because it’s too much and we don’t want to burn out before the end of the season.
- How do you balance training with school?
Before I was in a school, so a proper school, I was physically going there and in the last two years, this is my second year now, I’ve gone into homeschooling. It is an online school which provides athletes or people with disabilities the ability to study, which makes it easy to balance training. It’s very much a sports school, so it’s via Zoom, four hours a day for four weeks, for four days a week. And it’s very helpful, it’s a lot of work on the side when we’re not online in class, but it’s very nice. It’s helped me to train a lot and boost my performance.
- What have you learned from this week?
This week I’ve gained a lot of confidence. I’ve been able to see the level of the good skiers in front, and I know there’s a lot of work to do and I know I’m very young, so I’m truly here for the experience. And I never thought I’d be here in my first year of international races at FIS level. I never thought I’d go to the Youth Olympic games and then to World Junior Championships in the space of three weeks, and we’re going straight there. It’s a tight gap, but I’m happy and can’t wait to see what that has to bring. I hope it’s the same as here.
- Tell us about your Irish family.
I’m half Irish, half British, my dad’s British and my mom’s Irish. My mom was born in Ireland. She lived there until the age of 18. My grandma and granddad still live there. Well, my granddad has sadly passed away, but they’ve lived there all their lives. My grandma has had the same home for about 40, 50 years and it is very special to go back there. You can feel the atmosphere, you can feel the joy and how proud they are to have that home. My grandma used to work as a nurse in a hospital and my granddad as a farmer, and basically my granddad brought my mom’s two brothers, my two uncles, into farming as well. They’re still doing the farming. My aunt is also a nurse, very much the female side of the family went down the hospital route and the male down the farming side. My mom, Donna Wilson, used to be a radiographer as well, so very much went down the hospital route as well.