Ducks and seed help Manitoba Olympian harvest gold

Double duty Gold medallist does double duty as pitchman for 
BrettYoung and ambassador for Ducks Unlimited Canada

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Most Canadian kids have jumped on a sled and sped down a hill.

The difference between that and the Olympic sport of skeleton is a multimillion-dollar track, high-tech gear and a bit more speed — like the 146 kilometres per hour hit by competitors on the track at Whistler, B.C., in 2010.

“It’s not as easy as jumping on and going down,” said Jon Montgomery, from Russell, Man. who took home the Olympic gold medal that year.

“A sack of potatoes will make it to the bottom, but it won’t be fast.”

First off, there’s the critical five-metre sprint — that makes or breaks a competitor’s run — before jumping on the minimalist steel-and-plastic sled. Then it’s a case of keeping your wits about you as you slide down at mind-numbing speeds.

“To get to the level we’re at, you need to have a firm cerebral understanding of what’s going on and how your body is reacting,” said Montgomery, adding that on corners, competitors must deal with a force equal to five Gs, or five times normal gravity.

In preparation for the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Montgomery, like all amateur athletes, has been inking sponsorship deals. For 2013, dubbed “Year of the Conservation Champion,” he will serve as an ambassador for Ducks Unlimited Canada.

Protecting wetlands and wilderness is important to him, he said, adding he’s proud to be a part of the organization as it celebrates 75 years of promoting wise use of natural resources.

“I grew up skating on ponds outside of town,” he said.

Although he’s not from a hunting family, he hopes to spend some time in a duck blind.

“I’d like to try it, but only if I get to eat the bird that I shoot.”

BrettYoung has been a sponsor of Montgomery since 2010, and he has done appearances for the company, as well as radio spots.

For the seed company’s Harvest Gold for Canada in 2014 program, he and his wife Darla, also a skeleton athlete, appear in a tongue-in-cheek training video.

In the video, available at www.BrettYoung.ca/JoinJonsTeam, the two participate in “training” events such as loading seed, building endurance while herding cattle, and “quad” training.

Funds raised in the Harvest Gold for Canada will be used to develop new equipment for the Canadian skeleton team — including a carbon fibre helmet, low-drag suit, aerodynamic sled, and special shoes for getting a better grip at the start.

“We’re trying to find some sponsorship to help pay for these projects because right now it’s all self-funded,” he said.

“Who better to understand the need for good equipment to get a job done than farmers.”

Although not a farm boy, Montgomery spent his youth roaming the Russell area with his school friends, most of whom grew up on farms.

A thrill-seeker, he sought excitement in skydiving, cliff and bridge jumping, and “driving fast.”

After moving to Calgary for work in 2001, he was “desperate” for something competitive to do. He took up skeleton just a week after seeing it for the first time.

According to Wikipedia, skeleton racing originated in the 1880s after British gentlemen began racing on sleds down the busy, winding streets of St. Moritz, Switzerland, and “causing an uproar among citizens because of the danger to pedestrians and visiting tourists.”

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