Over 6,500 miles away from home, Jamie Stanton crossed a finish line.
The result achieved recognition on the world stage for the 2012 Rochester Adams grad and marked the culmination of a lifelong dream and journey.
With a time of 1 minute, 37.37 seconds, Stanton notched a bronze medal in the 2018 Paralympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea. The third-place finish occurred March 17 in the slalom, standing division.
“To cross the finish line and see I was on the podium was an incredible feeling,” Stanton said. “Honestly, it was immediately a big sigh of relief. I’ve worked the last seven years of my life for this moment and finally had it pay off.”
From the beginning
The only Michigander on the United States Paralympic Team, Stanton started skiing at 3 years old. His love of the sport grew despite being born with fibular hemimelia, which is a growth deficiency in the bone that restricted the lower leg area from developing due to a blood clot. At 6 months old, Stanton had his right leg amputated below the knee.
While many Paralympians are former soldiers with injuries from war or people who suffered accidents later in life, Stanton believes having his hardship occur early in life to be a benefit. Coupled with the support of his parents, Michael and Rae, who currently live in Oakland Township, he said he was put on a path to success regardless of his situation.
“My parents were always adamant about letting me try whatever sport I wanted from a young age,” Stanton explained. “I did hockey, baseball, basketball, swimming, tennis, flag football and golf. They encouraged and wanted me to have a normal life and did a phenomenal job to make that happen.”
Getting the call
Stanton represented the Highlanders at the varsity level for four years in both golf and skiing. He competed against able-bodied opponents, qualifying for states in skiing his senior year.
“You would never know watching him race or even (skiing) that he was doing (it) with a prosthetic,” said Adams ski coach Pete Driscoll. “He was amazing. A good racer and with what he had going on, he’s definitely one of the most talented I’ve ever had.”
Driscoll has been at the helm of the program for 13 years. He said he was thrilled to see his former star medal and fondly remembered the start of his career.
“It’s been very cool to watch his progress. I had him for four years, and he was a brilliant kid,” Driscoll said. “When he qualified for states, he asked me if I had a problem with him skipping the state meet to go out west for a Team USA invite. I told him it was an incredible opportunity and he should absolutely go.”
In his junior and senior years of high school, Stanton entered the Michigan Adaptive Sports State Championships. Dubbed the Steeler Cup, Stanton won the downhill skiing event back to back at Schuss Mountain. That performance caught the eye of Team USA officials.
“It was the first time I really competed against other disabled skiers, and I won the race by over eight seconds,” Stanton recalled of the event his junior year. “I started getting calls from the U.S. scouts saying they had some interest in me. I was offered a chance to come out to Colorado. Shortly after that, I was named to the U.S. Development Team as a freshman at the University of Denver.”
Stanton received a specialized full-ride scholarship that covered the spring and summer semesters, allowing him to have the winter off to focus on skiing. During his sophomore year, he was named to the national team.
On to the ‘Games’
“My rookie year was an Olympic year,” Stanton explained of the 2014 season. “It was definitely a whirlwind being a rookie and getting to go to Sochi. I had a lot thrown at me at one time, but the timing really worked out to give me a great opportunity.”
In Russia, Stanton competed in four events, with his best finish seeing sixth in the Super G. For the next four years, he trained with one goal in mind: a medal.
With his parents and brother, Jonathan (a fellow skier and a 2017 Adams alum), awaiting him at the finish line in PyeongChang, Stanton posted a 48.51 in the first of two runs, leading the field.
“The whole day was incredible, really one of the best of my life,” Stanton explained. “I won the first run of the slalom by less than a tenth of a second. Being in the gold medal position, there’s a lot of pressure for the second run. I tried to stay calm and go through a normal routine. I listened to music, had lunch, and then I thought I had a pretty good second run with the conditions.”
Warm temperatures and rain made for a sluggish track on a hill that Stanton called one of the hardest he’s ever traversed. His second run was clocked at 48.86, fulfilling a wish he made eight years prior.
“During the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, they had the Paralympics on TV after it,” Stanton remembered. “I specifically watched the downhill in my basement and said, ‘I can do that.’ Things started to fall into place, and to come down the hill and know I had a medal was incredible. Seeing (my family) at the finish was an awesome feeling and a really special moment for everybody.”
‘The support has been incredible’
Stanton said he immediately received a wave of messages from back home. His older sister, Brittney, a 2010 Adams grad and skier, had to stay home for medical school, but was the first to give him a call. Winnipeg Jets defenseman Jacob Trouba (a Rochester Hills native) tagged him on Twitter after staying up to watch his childhood friend.
“Jacob was one of my best friends growing up, so it meant a lot to hear from him,” Stanton said. “The support has been incredible. It’s been three weeks since I won my medal, but I’m still getting texts, calls, emails and Facebook messages. Old professors and teachers have sent things and friends I grew up with. The whole Rochester Hills area has been behind me the whole time, and that really helped.”
Stanton will now embark on a new course, heading to Wall Street. After earning a financial degree at Denver and completing a 10-week internship with CitiGroup, he will begin a full-time spot in New York City as an analyst programmer.
Planning to take two years off from competition, Stanton is at a crossroads in his career. While he is passionate about skiing, he may leave the sport that requires a strenuous commitment physically and financially.
“If this is it, it was the perfect ending for my story,” Stanton said. “It’s been a long seven years, but definitely worth it. I couldn’t be happier to end my career with an exclamation point. I’ll make the decision in two years and see where things go. As of right now, I’m leaning towards leaving. I’m pretty exhausted from the last few years, but it has obviously been a part of my life. Regardless of what happens, I’m proud of what I did in the sport.”