WHISTLER (Reuters) - It tells you something about his character that Canadian gold medal winner Jon Montgomery apologized to his rival Martins Dukurs after pipping the Latvian to the top of the podium by just 0.07 seconds on Friday.
Having made a superb slide, as the penultimate man to go, the flame-haired and bearded Montgomery stood and watched as Dukurs made a run that could have turned him into Latvia’s first Winter Games winner.
But Dukurs, who has been outstanding all week, got his line badly wrong on his last run and handed victory to Montgomery, who responded by punching the air and roaring his delight to a celebrating Canadian crowd.
”I had said at the beginning of the race that if I was in that position and I did get gold coming from behind that I was going to remain stoic and respectful because you never want to cheer when somebody else loses.
“But I have to apologize to Martins, that didn’t happen, I lost my mind when I saw the 0.07 come up and I was like I had stuck my finger in a light socket,” he added.
Part of the reason why Montgomery could not control his excitement was a passion for the sport that remains as vibrant today as it did eight years ago when he first took up skeleton.
“You’d be without a heartbeat if you didn’t get a rush going down the track at 145 kilometers an hour, listening to a crowd like that cheer for you. You’d better check yourself,” said the Canadian.
“But that first run I made down the track in Calgary, eight years ago, I won’t forget very easily either,” the 30-year-old said.
“The first time you are exposed to something new, something exciting like the sport of skeleton, you’ll never forget that. To go from that to eight years later realize this dream that I set on July 3, 2003 when Canada was awarded the 2010 Games, that is pretty incredible” he added.
To many the idea of racing head first down an icy tube of a course sounds an almost insane activity to undertake but the Canadian said it beat the alternatives.
”Honestly it didn’t seem extremely risky to me -- when you look at the sliding sports, clearly I am not big enough to be a bobsleigher, I didn’t particularly want to consider a 300 kilogram sled upon my head.
”Luge looked like you are trying to stuff your Christmas tree through the door tip first and have your limbs peeled backwards.
“So skeleton made sense to me -- going down head first, if you fall off, you go the way gravity wants to send you, you bump around, bang around and it just seemed to make sense -- the speed element definitely appeals to my character,” he said.
The man with the maple leaf tattooed on his chest said he has no intention of retiring yet and intends to defend his crown in Sochi.
“I‘m going to Sochi -- my girlfriend is a skeleton athlete as well and she and I are going to push through the next quadrennial and give Canada another good showing,” he said.
Editing by Ed Osmond