Montgomery, Imrie stoked

By PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency

They couldn't be more different, in their sport or their approach.

You have Jon Montgomery, the brash skeleton racer from Russell, Man., who makes no bones about going for gold at the Winter Olympics next month.

And you have Megan Imrie of Falcon Lake, who'll take her skis and rifle to the Games hoping to crack the world's top-30 in the biathlon.

Two Manitobans from opposite ends of the province and the spectrum, but with the same excitement pulsing through their veins as the Games approach.

"It means an incredible amount for me," Montgomery told the Sun from Calgary. "The culmination of eight years of blood, sweat and tears into a sport."

Imrie calls it a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity" that's just beginning to sink in.

"We were just presented with our official team jackets," she said Thursday, on the phone from Canmore, Alta. "Today is kind of the first day of, 'I'm going to the Olympics.' "

While Imrie is modest about her place in a sport dominated by Europeans, Montgomery sounds a little like a brash Yank.

But he does it in an endearing way. When he says he wants to "kick ass," it doesn't so much sound like trash talk as it does simple enthusiasm.

He's certainly not afraid to say what he's sliding for.

"Oh, sh--, no," Montgomery said. "I'm in it to win it."

If speaking your mind made you go faster, head-first on a pair of steel rails down an twisting, turning ice slide, Montgomery would be a lock for the podium.

Last year he won a World Cup race on the same track they'll use at the Olympics, and this is what he said about it: "It doesn't mean jack-sh--, honestly."

This is the same guy who, in a Sun interview a couple weeks back, called the German sliders a bunch of "p---heads," even pointing out which one he'd most like to punch out.

"I haven't always chosen my words carefully," Montgomery acknowledged. "But I don't often regret it. I just stand by it."

Makes you all of a sudden want front-row tickets for the skeleton, doesn't it?

Ask Montgomery where this confidence comes from, and he points to his folks, whether they like it or not.

"My parents have done a good job having me believe in myself and shoot for excellence, and to talk about it."

Even if it hasn't always been the Canadian way.

"We never wanted to be too boastful about saying what we were shooting for, like our American cousins have been. I don't think it's that way anymore."

At the same time, Montgomery, 30, takes his position seriously, realizing that his eight years of training for this moment could leave a lasting impression.

"I've written in my blog that in the same period of time, others have become doctors," he said. "And although I won't be saving any lives by competing, hopefully through competing with some honour and some strength I'll be able to inspire some lives. That's pretty incredible to me."

That's how both he and Imrie got into this, by being inspired.

In a couple of weeks, both are counting on getting more inspiration than they've ever known, competing in their first Olympics, at home.

"I've been doing a lot of visualization, and I can't wait to see the crowd that comes out for biathlon," Imrie, 23, said. "Last week I performed in front of about 30,000. But the difference is they were all cheering for the German team. And two weeks from now, all those people are going to be cheering for me.

"Hopefully it's going to put rockets on my skis."

There's no telling what it'll do for Montgomery. He certainly doesn't seem to need any additional motivation.

"I'm going to be livin' la vida loca and trying to savour each moment," he said.

Contact Paul at paul.friesen@sunmedia.ca or 632-2788.

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