Whistler medal for Montgomery 

Strong finishes send Olympic champ back to World Cup team

click to enlarge PHOTO BY DAVID BUZZARD/WWW.DAVIDBUZZARD.COM - Jon Montgomery
  • PHOTO BY DAVID BUZZARD/WWW.DAVIDBUZZARD.COM
  • Jon Montgomery

Jon Montgomery will return to Canada's World Cup skeleton team after posting a pair of top-five finishes during Intercontinental Cup competition at the Whistler Sliding Centre this week.

The 2010 Olympic champ, who has been racing on the second-tier circuit this season, recorded his two best results of the season back at the site of his gold-medal victory, reaching the podium in third spot on Sunday, Jan. 6 before placing fifth on Monday, Jan. 7.

The best Canadian result of the back-to-back races belonged to Cassie Hawrysh, who earned a silver-medal finish in Monday's women's race. Both Montgomery and Hawrysh continue to chase a potential berth on Canada's Olympic team and their results this week helped keep their chances of going to Sochi alive.

Montgomery had the best men's finish for the home team on both days, clocking in with a two-run time that was nine-hundredths of a second off the winning pace set by Italy's Maurizio Oioli on Sunday. Germany's Alexander Gassner took silver.

Also Sunday, Whistler-based Irish slider Sean Greenwood finished fifth, and Canadians Barrett Martineau and Patrick Rooney finished ninth and 11th, respectively.

In Monday's men's race, all three Canadians landed in the top eight, led by Montgomery in fifth. Martineau placed sixth and Rooney finished eighth in the race won by South Korea's Sungbin Yun. Russian sliders Anton Batuev and Alexander Mutovin picked up the silver and bronze.

Official results from Monday's women's race were not available, but Hawrysh's runner-up finish was also her best result since being moved from the World Cup squad to the Intercontinental Cup team partway through the winter.

The Brandon, Man., native was also the top Canadian on Sunday when she slid into sixth place. German athletes captured the gold and silver medals in a one-two finish from Katharina Heinz and Jacqueline Loelling. Great Britain's Donna Creighton finished third.

Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton named Eric Neilson and John Fairbairn to the men's team and Mellisa Hollingsworth and Sarah Reid to the women's squad last month for its initial Olympic nominations. Canada isn't guaranteed a third spot in Sochi for either gender, but Montgomery will get a chance to earn a berth to the Games by heading back to the World Cup circuit this weekend.

Montgomery and Dave Greszczyszyn are competing for that last men's spot, and the two will switch teams for the upcoming week of races, with Greszczyszyn returning to the Intercontinental Cup circuit. Greszczyszyn was given a spot on the World Cup squad after winning the Canadian Championship in Whistler back in October and got off to a fast start on the top circuit by finishing sixth in Calgary in the season opener. But he has struggled since, finishing no better than 20th, while Montgomery has improved with each outing at the Intercontinental Cup level.

Hawrysh will remain on the Intercontinental Cup tour this week as she and Robynne Thompson both look to put a third Canadian sled in the field at the Olympics. Thompson, who shared the Canadian Championship title with Hawrysh this year, posted top-10 finishes in the first two World Cups of the season to keep her spot on the big team but hasn't been able to find the top 15 in her last three races.

But on top of the internal competition for the last spots in Sochi, the Canadians are also battling against athletes from other countries for the remaining berths.

Three countries will be awarded a third men's sled, and two countries will get an additional women's spot, with the allotments based upon FIBT world rankings. The complicated system will make the remaining races on both circuits crucial to determining who goes to the Games.

The World Cup skeleton tour is in St. Moritz, Switzerland, this week while the Intercontinental Cup season ends on Sunday, Jan. 12 at Park City, Utah.

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