Though he didn’t grow up on a farm, Russell native Jon Montgomery’s childhood memories are punctuated by long, golden days spent on the farms of his friends and neighbours.
“My heart was always on the farm,” said Montgomery, an Olympic gold medallist who is scheduled to speak at next week’s Manitoba Ag Days in Brandon. “That’s something that’s near and dear to my heart because of the type of community I grew up in.”
Montgomery began to climb the World Cup rankings in skeleton racing in the years leading up to the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, where he won gold in his sport after outracing world champion Martins Dukurs of Latvia by 0.07 seconds.
His celebration served to endear him to Canadians just as much as his gold medal when, during his victory walk, a fan in the crowd handed him a pitcher of beer. Montgomery carried it through a crowd of supporters and brought it on stage for an interview on national television.
In 2019, Montgomery went on to headline the 2019 Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame induction class, and he’s been the host of “The Amazing Race Canada,” an adventure reality game show based on the international Amazing Race franchise, since 2013.
Though he’s travelled the world during his lengthy career and now lives in Victoria, there’s nothing quite like being back on Westman soil and in the Wheat City, Montgomery said.
“You can only be from one place, if you ask me, and for me it’s Russell, Manitoba. Coming back to Westman is coming home.”
Montgomery said he’s excited to return to the Keystone Centre in particular, where he often played hockey in his youth.
“It’s going to be brilliant. I’ve been in that arena for many other reasons … and now I’ll be able to add one more thing to that list.”
Returning as a speaker for Ag Days is a chance for Montgomery to share with attendees why agriculture is so important, not just to someone who grew up in a farming community and was active in 4H, but for all Manitobans and the world.
The theme of this year’s Ag Days, farmer health, safety and wellness, is of utmost importance, Montgomery said, since health and wellness are closely tied to nutrition, and producers give us the food we need to survive and thrive.
“It’s a direct derivative of what we put in our mouth, how we feed ourselves and where this food comes from.”
Not only is he thankful to Westman producers for feeding the world, Montgomery said he counts himself lucky to have grown up among them.
“I’m eternally grateful to be a Westman kid.”
Montgomery will share his story, no doubt coloured by his many memories of Westman, at Ag Days on Wednesday from 4:30 to 6 p.m.
Miranda Leybourne, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun