Supporting Canadian Athletes

Jon Montgomery

Jon Montgomery has only been in the sport of skeleton for seven seasons, but is already a four-time National Champion and is currently ranked 7th in the world. Building on his success from last year, Jon is working hard and looking forward to the Vancouver 2010 Olympics – and gunning for gold, no less. Not only is he a successful skeleton racer, Jon embodies the values of a true athlete leader – both on and off the icy track.

Jon was born and raised in Russell, Manitoba, and since birth, has always had a tremendous amount of energy. Sport seemed to be his constructive outlet of choice for that ever present energy and continues to be to this day. Not surprisingly, his father was both a teacher and coach in the community in several sports and was always involved in a coaching capacity in Jon’s life. “It wasn’t a struggle, I always wanted to be part of all those teams”, says Jon. He says he was interested in sport since before he can remember – watching sports on TV and emulating his heroes. “Sport was always there, I don’t remember taking my first breath and the same can be said for sports”, he explains.

When he was younger, Jon always dreamed of becoming a professional hockey player, especially having Theo Fleury as a hometown hero. “Theo inspired me and made me believe that anything was possible since he was so small for a hockey player but still very successful”, he says. Despite winning a Western Canadian bronze medal in bantam hockey, Jon realized as an early teenager that hockey would not be a lifelong career for him. In university, he was interested in discovering a sport that would enable him to compete on the national team as it was a lifelong aspiration for him to represent Canada on the world stage.

Shortly after university, Jon moved to Calgary and tried speed skating, soon realizing that at the age of 22, he was already behind his competitors’ development. He then witnessed a skeleton race in March of 2002 and his interest was immediately peaked. Jon decided he had to try this sport he knew nothing about to see what he could do. His career in skeleton began in the fall of 2002, followed by a four year learning curve fraught with adversity and devastating crashes. His hard work and determination paid off when he earned a spot on the World Cup team after the 2006 Olympics.

Jon considers his ability to stick with the sport through the incredibly challenging learning curve, while believing himself to be the poorest slider of the new recruits, as one of his major successes. His parents were very supportive of his dreams and always encouraged him to be passionate about life. His father, the school principal and Jon’s history and geography teacher, taught him one lesson which stuck: Once you start something you enjoy, don’t give up no matter how difficult it becomes. Without his father’s influence as an educator, Jon says, there’s no way he’d be the high performance athlete he is today. “I think there is a strong correlation between my education and my career in sport. Like coaches, teachers always encourage you to do your best and to believe in yourself.”

Last season, Jon won silver at the World Championships in Altenberg, Germany; earned four World Cup podium finishes; and the Canadian national title for the second year in a row, making him the 2nd highest ranked male skeleton athlete in the world by the sport’s governing body, the Federation Internationale de Bobsleigh et de Tobogganing (FIBT). This season, the first Calgary race acted as the 2009 Canadian Championship and the next day they raced for the 2010 Canadian Championship. He won both races and not only secured a spot on the World Cup team for the start of the season, but became a four time National Champion.

This season, Jon says he is focused on building on his past success while looking forward to the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. He is confident that with hard work, accompanied by the support of his friends, family and sponsors, he can live his dream of attaining Olympic gold.

Jon’s first experience as an athlete leader evolved out of his role as assistant captain and then captain on his hockey teams growing up. He also began coaching hockey when he was in Texas for university. “There was not a lot of hockey knowledge there so I was happy to lend my services as a coach and impart my knowledge on the young and impressionable athletes”, says Jon. He found it very rewarding and understood right away why his dad was involved in a coaching capacity in their tiny community.

Jon coaches skeleton and has taken the time to go to Lake Placid to take over the role of head coach of a group of young athletes. He also enjoys participating in school visits and sharing his story with young children in the hopes of inspiring and motivating them. “I love the excitement that they bring in meeting us and giving back is so important to me”, he says. On tour, he immerses himself in the day to day training and finds that some aspects can become taxing or trivial. But when he visits a school and meets the eager young fans, it reminds him of why he is racing and what got him excited to pursue life as an athlete in the first place.

In his spare time, Jon participates in a variety of charity auctions as an auctioneer which has helped to raise a substantial amount of money for worthy causes over the years including the Alberta Children’s Hospital, the Lymphoma Foundation, Duck Unlimited, Canadian Sports Centre, Right To Play, Edge School, Canadian Olympic Committee, and Rockyview Memorial Hospital. He is also passionate about sport development and inclusion initiatives such as Right to Play. As an ambassador of the program, Jon believes that to experience sport is an opportunity that everyone should be able to have. In support of an organization close to home, Jon has asked that instead of his family giving him Christmas gifts, they make donations on his behalf to an organization in Winnipeg that grants inner city kids the opportunity to be involved with sport and receive access to facilities and equipment in which they would otherwise not have. “Sport was a powerful vehicle in my development as a youngster and I believe it is important for all children to have access to sport; to receive the benefit of the doubt and have the opportunity to become contributing members of society”, says Jon.

It is important for Jon to consider where he is in the quadrennial cycle before committing to his leadership roles. Currently, many of Jon’s ongoing leadership roles off the track are taking a back seat to his training and competition, but after the Games will be an opportunity to share his story and give back to the community.

Jon was initially introduced to AthletesCAN when he started receiving email updates and news bulletins, before he was on the national team. Once he became eligible for all the programs offered to senior national team athletes, such as the Bell Athletes Connect Program and the Investors Group Bursary he began to benefit from the program and service support directly. Due to his competitive schedule, Jon has not been able to attend an AthletesCAN Forum to date. “I would certainly like to attend when I am available. The organization’s initiatives are very positive and what AthletesCAN means to athletes in Canada is profound. It is a great opportunity and I would be remiss if I didn’t make it in the future”, explains Jon.

Jon earned a degree in Automotive Marketing/International Management from Northwood University in Cedar Hills, Texas and works as a sales consultant and automobile auctioneer. Although he lives in Calgary, AB he says that the small town of Russell, MB will always be home.

To ensure focus on his first Olympic Games, Jon is taking everything one day at a time. Preparation is integral so he is keeping his nose to the grindstone and ‘gettin’ ‘er done’. Jon admits it takes a lot of energy to remain positive in such an intense environment but he realizes that competing at the Olympics Games in his home country is an incredibly fortunate opportunity for him and he wants to take stock of everyday, rather than wishing the season away. “I think if the past seven seasons of sliding have taught me one thing, it is to enjoy each moment and not wish it all away for the big race at the end. This is a crazy journey to be on and I’m really trying to take it all in and savour the unique chance I have before me to become an Olympian and compete at home. It’s a double whammy if you ask me, and it will be all over before I can blink”.

Jon is very excited to be competing at his first Olympics and says that even though the world will be watching and there is a lot of money invested in him, he is choosing to view this as support rather than pressure – lots and lots of support. “Pressure would make this overwhelming. I know my family and friends will love me the same no matter what happens, and those that don’t – don’t matter”, he says. If he doesn’t win, he feels it will take some mental fortitude to remain positive and realize that he has achieved something very special, but he is not going to Vancouver as a participant, he is going for gold!

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