Hard road ahead for Montgomery's Olympic swan song 

Defending champ to begin season off World Cup team roster

click to enlarge PHOTO BY ERIC MACKENZIE - sochi still in sight Jon Montgomery stands on the Whistler Sliding Centre finish dock after an Oct. 25 training run. The 2010 Olympic skeleton champ will start his season racing at the lower-tier Intercontinental Cup level.
  • Photo by Eric MacKenzie
  • sochi still in sight Jon Montgomery stands on the Whistler Sliding Centre finish dock after an Oct. 25 training run. The 2010 Olympic skeleton champ will start his season racing at the lower-tier Intercontinental Cup level.

Jon Montgomery would like nothing more than for his career in skeleton racing to end with a chance to defend his Olympic gold.

The 34-year-old plans to retire from the sport at the end of the season. For the man who provided Whistler's most memorable moment of the 2010 Games, stepping back onto the podium is far less important than simply being there to compete in Sochi this February.

"It is about putting all your cards on the table and doing everything you can," Montgomery told Pique on Oct. 25. "It's very little about the result, and if you get too results-focused and oriented, I think you're not focusing on what's important.

"You can't control what other athletes do, you can't control what sort of luck swings your way or swings against you. All you can do is put yourself in the best possible position for success and that's really what's important."

But as the 2013-14 skeleton season draws near, Montgomery making a trip to Sochi isn't guaranteed.

Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton announced this week that that Manitoba native will begin his season on the Intercontinental Cup circuit, bumped off the three-man team that will represent the country on the top-tier World Cup tour this year. He's not the only past Olympic medallist to be starting the winter at the Intercontinental level, as Mellisa Hollingsworth was also kept off the women's World Cup opening roster.

Montgomery finished fifth in the Canadian Skeleton Championships on Sunday, Oct. 27 at the Whistler Sliding Centre, one of two selection races used to help set the roster for the World Cup squad, the other held the previous week in Calgary.

The makeup of the team isn't set in stone, as head coach Duff Gibson and his staff can tinker with the lineup after the first two World Cup events. But that the country's most famous slider could be left off the squad to start the year speaks to how his up-and-coming teammates are making big strides, and how the results have been hard for Montgomery to come by since 2010.

The first race following the 2010 Games was back in Whistler, where he won again to open the 2010-11 World Cup season. He hasn't finished in the top five of a World Cup or world championship race since, although that period includes a one-year hiatus from competition.

Montgomery took the 2011-12 season off to focus on building a custom sled, then returned last year to finish 11th in the men's World Cup rankings. He continued to work on sled development this summer, a project which he said has been "probably the most frustrating thing I've ever undertaken in my life," yet very rewarding at the same time.

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