Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Champion 'hoser' to appear on Oprah show

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Millions of Canadians watched him capture gold and celebrate by chugging a pitcher of beer.Now, Manitoba's fast-talking, beer-drinking Olympic champion Jon Montgomery will be watched by millions more when he makes an appearance on the Oprah Winfrey Show.

A spokesman for Winfrey's production company, Harpo Inc., confirmed Montgomery will teach Oprah Winfrey Show correspondent Ali Wentworth how to skeleton. The segment was filmed in Vancouver on Thursday and will air on Winfrey's Fridays Live show this afternoon.

Montgomery, 30, catapulted to stardom after racing down the men's skeleton track at the Whistler Sliding Centre to stand atop the podium as a champion. The part-time auctioneer quickly became known as the nation's champion "hoser" and news of the small-town hero's upcoming interview with Oprah has ramped up excitement over his victory.

"It's sort of surreal for us," Montgomery's dad, Eldon, said during an interview from his home in Russell. "It's just been a whirlwind since the night of his victory (last Friday)."

Harpo Inc. spokesman Don Halcombe said Winfrey has recently featured the achievements of gold-medal-winning athletes and Montgomery's Olympic win in Whistler sparked the show's interest.

Eldon said his son has been doing interviews and attending Olympic-related events virtually non-stop since his gold medal win, and that they haven't had much chance to speak. He said the entire town will likely be watching his Oprah debut.

Eldon said his son's story has inspired hope in the nation and served as a "reminder that we all need to try a little harder and follow your dreams."

"I think the word is out and about so all of the Oprah fans can take it in," he said.

Montgomery first began sliding at Tower Hill in Russell, literally outside his back door. He didn't officially pick up the sport until eight years ago when he gave the skeleton a try at Canada Olympic Park in Calgary. Visiting the park with his parents one night, he witnessed a skeleton competition and was instantly hooked.

Parades, entertainment and a permanent sign celebrating the town of Russell's new favourite son are being planned in the wake of Montgomery's win.

"Atta boy Jon! We are so proud of you!" reads a sign at the Russell Inn, where dozens of people jammed into the pub to watch Montgomery's come-from-behind victory.

A celebration is planned for March 14 in the town, located 340 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg near the Saskatchewan border.

Eldon said the fanfare surrounding his son's win has been overwhelming, and that the family hasn't had much time to truly absorb what Montgomery has accomplished.

"This is all new to us, but we're certainly enjoying it," he said.

jen.skerritt@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 26, 2010 A5

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