Golden Moments, with Jon Montgomery
By Adam Freill
Skyrocketing to stardom thanks to an epic victory walk through Whistler Village after taking skeleton gold at the 2010 Winter Olympics, Jon Montgomery has gone on to share golden moments with Canadians throughout the world, and it’s a task that he loves.
Canada’s unofficial ambassador, and host of The Amazing Race Canada, Jon collects as many of those moments as fingerprints on the medal that made him famous – a collection that was added to by many in the mechanical trades when he served as the keynote speaker at MCAC’s annual conference this past November.
Now officially retired from “sliding on a cafeteria tray,” Jon is serving as a skeleton analyst during the CBC’s coverage of the 2018 winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, and will return to his hosting duties when The Amazing Race Canada starts shooting again in April.
Know the ice
Focus and knowledge are often what give an athlete the edge against the top competitors in the world. Learning about the subtle nuances in equipment and the sporting environment can mean the difference between a podium finish and going home empty handed, especially in a high-speed, technical sport like skeleton, so Jon immersed himself in learning all that he could about the tracks where he competed.
”The things I learned about ice, I never thought possible,” he laughed during our interview. ”You can tell just by looking at it what kind of day you’ll be having. The best weather for competing is usually around -1, with zero humidity and overcast skies.”
Of course, no two sliding centres are alike.
”Slow, fast, bumpy, smooth; every track in the world is different, from how they refrigerate the concrete, to the type of water used to make the ice,” he explained. ”At the Konigssee track in Germany, the oldest refrigerated track in the world, they began to use treated water that lowered the amount of air bubbles in the water to create a harder ice surface.”
That, he said, led to dramatic reductions in the record track times.
An amazing adventure
Heading into its sixth season, The Amazing Race Canada celebrates some of the country’s most beautiful locations, as well as bringing contestants to exotic overseas destinations for some segments of the show.
”I enjoy the travel and the stunts that are part of the gig, but I absolutely love watching the racers push themselves to their limits,” said Jon, who has hosted the show since its debut. ”We make them earn every inch in front of them, and the teams never disappoint – well, almost never.”
As host, Montgomery outlines the rules throughout each episode, so he gets to do many of the challenges that the contestants try to complete. A bit of a daredevil – understandable given the speeds he would reach on his skeleton sled – he takes most in stride, but the occasional one can cause him to pause for a moment or two.
”I was really unnerved by the bungee tower jump in Macao,” he recalled. ”It was 762-feet high, and the oil tanker that was below me looked like a child’s tub toy. That was freaky for sure.”
Season six, which films for four straight weeks this spring, will launch in the summer.
The first step is the hardest
Back in 2002, the view of Calgary’s sliding centre captured Jon’s curiosity, and witnessing a skeleton race grabbed his interest, but it still took a buildup of courage to sled and try his hand at something new.
Stepping out of his comfort zone to take on the new challenge that would change his life is not unlike a journeyman starting a company for the first time, so we asked Jon for some advice from sport that could be applied to business.
”The hardest part of any journey is just getting going,” said the Olympic champion. ”It’s not always going to get easier right away, but nothing is harder than taking those first steps. The rest is about finding opportunities to celebrate your progression and savouring the small victories along the way.”
Sometimes simply deciding what to do first can be a barrier to success.
”Folks need to decide what the first thing to do is, and then get it done! For some that’s verbalizing their desires, and others it means journaling the idea,” he added. ”It might be as simple as asking for help and filling out an application, but momentum is a powerful force and, if we can lean into it when things are exciting and new, it can take us a long way.”
Post-retirement, Montgomery can see how his sport training has helped his new career in media.
”I think the work ethic I applied to sport is something that has stead me well in the world of television,” he said. “Being a part of a team also helped, as working in TV is so collaborative. If you are unable to work towards common goals with others, or think that certain jobs or duties are below you, then it’s going to be a slog.”
A good team definitely gives anyone a leg up. “You’ll never earn anything truly important in life, on your own. All the best things, rewards, victories, milestones and any other sort of achievement is something we need help to accomplish or earn.”
The importance of water
In addition to his work in television and sport, Jon and his wife, fellow skeleton racer Darla Deschamps, support WaterAid, an international charity that looks to bring clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene to underserviced parts of the world.
”We are beyond lucky to have the access to the amenities we do,” said Jon. ”Clean water being at the very top of that list. A human’s self-worth is restored when they have the capacity to provide the essentials of life in their own home and can access facilities for sanitation safely.”
He and his wife completed a 500-km bike ride through Costa Rica and Nicaragua raising money for the charity.
”After the cycling, we visited the Northern Autonomous region of Nicaragua to see where WaterAid is having an influence on the local population’s ability to access clean drinking water and sanitation. It was remarkable to see. The work they are doing in those remote communities was incredible.”
Details of the charity, and its work, can be found at wateraid.org