Jon Montgomery went from almost complete anonymity to a Canadian superstar almost overnight.
It all changed for the Russell, Manitoba native when he accepted his gold medal in skeleton at the Winter Olympics in Whistler in February 2010.
But the moment that really sealed it for many Canadians was afterwards when he Montgomery marched through a crowd of Canadian fans singing the national anthem and chugging a pitcher of beer.
It was a persona somehow befitting of his rural Manitoba roots, which he still values despite having lived and trained in Calgary now for the last 10 years.
That is why Montgomery still jumps at opportunities like being the guest speaker at the annual fundraising banquet of the Boundary Trails Health Centre Foundation September September 24 in Morden.
His appearance here helped the foundation surpass last year’s fundraising total by $4,000 to a total of around $40,000.
Chatting before the start of a round of golf that morning with a lucky contest winner who won the chance to hit the links with him, Montgomery said he values being in a position to be able to give back.
“I’ve got an opportunity to be able to make an impact and help organizations,” said Montgomery, who added it always rewarding to help “enrich lives in communities.”
The 32-year-old Montgomery started skeleton racing when he lived in Calgary, where he visited the track with his parents where a skeleton race was being held. He was immediately hooked with the sport and started racing competitively not long after watching it.
After gaining experience through his first two seasons competing on the World Cup tour, Montgomery won his first World Cup race in Italy in 2008.
He went on to win two silver medals at the 2008 world championships in Germany, earning them in the men’s skeleton and mixed bobsleigh-skeleton team event.
Montgomery then qualified for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver based on his results in the 2009-10 Skeleton World Cup. Montgomery became the second Canadian in a row to win gold in the men’s event after Duff Gibson in 2006, and he was the first Canadian to win a gold medal in Whistler at the Olympics.
He now continues to compete, devoting the months from October to March to focus on training and competing. But, for the rest of the year, he is able to commit to speaking engagements and other projects.
“It is a delicate balance … to train enough to be competitive … and be able to get out with Canadians,” said Montgomery, but he noted his sport isn’t one that requires the same degree of year-round commitment as many others.
And being able to give time to other activities helps make it possible for him to be able to train and compete.
“Having the opportunity to be a full time athlete is rewarding,” he said.
And he has hoped his gold medal performance can help inspire more people to enter amateur sports.
The message he brings to events like the BTHC Foundation dinner is one of where hard work and perseverance can get you.
“The message is believe in yourself,” Montgomery said, also urging youth to capitalize on their opportunities and not to be afraid to face setbacks along the way.
“Dream big … believe in yourself … set goals … and face the adversity.”