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'Amazing Race Canada' host Jon Montgomery says he needs to improve

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TORONTO - Though the first season of "Amazing Race Canada" was such a ratings success that CTV rushed to renew as if sprinting to the mat, host Jon Montgomery can't help but see one area in which the show needs to improve as it heads into its sophomore year.

The host, he says, needs to be better.

"Obviously I need lots of work to continue to find my voice and my pace and my rhythm and my feel for the show," Montgomery told The Canadian Press just before the teams were to begin racing.

"Just becoming, I guess, more aware of what my role in this production is all about. As I become more familiar with what people are wanting of me, and how I can breathe in more of my personality to it, I'll maybe feel better about the job that's been done in the future, as we go along.

"I'm definitely trying to grow with the show. And to think I've got it dialled and I'm Mr. Host With the Most would be — oh my God, a gross overstatement.

"I think," he added, "that's when you get complacent in life and you don't continue to grow."

Heading into the show's first season, the flame-haired 35-year-old was best-known to Canadians as the skeleton racer who celebrated his gold medal victory at the 2010 Vancouver Games by marching down the street, bellowing "O Canada" and swigging beer straight from a pitcher.

As host, Montgomery's supersonic vocal delivery — he was an auctioneer, after all — and chipper demeanour set him in stark contrast from Phil Keoghan's coolly stoic approach to hosting the popular American version of the show.

As far as what he specifically wants to work on, Montgomery feels he might be capable of drawing more out of the "mat chats," otherwise known as the brief, sometimes emotionally charged interactions between the host and the teams finally reaching their goal in each episode.

"Having a better idea of my role and what's expected of me, I hope to be able to have some honest, legitimate conversations with the racers and find out what's making them tick," he said.

Montgomery was speaking before the second "Amazing Race Canada" — which premieres July 8 on CTV — had actually begun, but he felt he could make certain declarations about the upcoming season with certainty.

For one thing, he promised a "gnarlier" slate of challenges — a threat that qualifies as almost sadistic for those who remember watching agonized teams dig through truckloads of lentils to locate tiny stuffed moose.

And for those who felt somewhat cheated by the first season's outcome — the Winnipeg pair of Tim Hague Sr. and Jr. triumphing despite having finished last in two separate legs — he was hopeful the show's second instalment would follow a different story arc.

"The Tims from last year, I don't think, were an imminent threat," he said candidly. "I think Tim and Tim, they got lucky. They were almost eliminated twice. They got saved by non-elimination legs. And the only leg they ultimately won was the last one. It's the only one you need to win but in that breath, I don't think Tim and Tim were the strongest team (even though) they were the ultimate winners.

"I think this season you're going to see the strongest team win," he added. "I'll put money on that right now."

Going into the first season, Montgomery was still harbouring Olympic ambition and planned to tailor his training regimen to the show's demanding travel schedule.

That's no longer a concern, given that Montgomery decided to retire from skeleton racing after failing to qualify for the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

Though he really prefers not to use the word "retire."

"I'm 35 — I don't really consider myself retired. I consider myself an athlete that quit doing athletics or at least competitive sports."

Well, even "quit" is a strong word, given Montgomery's fondness for pondering his next athletic move.

"I've always mused about how awesome it would be to train for a sport where you can sit down and fire at targets. ... Maybe pistol shooting is in my future?" he said with a smile. "Maybe if they bring mixed curling into the Olympics, myself and my wife can become avid curlers.

"But I can't just let the competitive spirit die."

Originally from Russell, Man., Montgomery and his wife Darla — also a skeleton racer — recently moved from Calgary to Victoria.

And touring about his new home again got Montgomery's imagination percolating.

"I saw a lawn bowling green. I was like, lawn bowling? I'd love to go lawn bowling. So it's going to be me and the blue-haired ladies and the white-haired gentlemen in white pants, white shirts.

"I'm going to be out there lawn bowling with the 80-year-olds in Victoria this (year). I can't wait. I'm looking forward to it. That's going to be my real retirement. A blue leisure suit."

— Follow @CP_Patch on Twitter.

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