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It's all downhill from here

Montgomery, Deschamps will count on each other

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CALGARY -- Canada's most famous beer auctioneer now has a spouse as determined to reach the Olympic podium in 2014 as he is.

Jon Montgomery, the reigning Olympic champion in men's skeleton, recently married fellow slider Darla Deschamps, who is coming off a strong rookie season on the World Cup.

"The best thing about having your partner with you, involved in the same sport and with me on tour last year is that you've got somebody by your side who understands the unique dynamics we go through," Montgomery said Wednesday from the couple's home in Calgary.

"It lends itself to a stronger relationship because you're both involved in the same goals."

Montgomery taking bids for a pitcher of beer in downtown Whistler, B.C., after his victory in 2010 is an enduring image of the Winter Games for many Canadians.

The 32-year-old from Russell, Man., and Calgary's Deschamps, were a couple for five years and lived together for four prior to their wedding Aug. 6 at a vineyard near Kelowna, B.C.

Deschamps, 30, qualified for Canada's World Cup team the second half of last season finishing on the podium on the developmental Intercontinental Cup circuit. Her other reward was the opportunity to spend more time with her fiance. Deschamps placed in the top five in her four World Cup races and was eighth at the world championship.

"I am really happy we do the same sport and we are able to sit down and de-brief with another, not only as teammates but as a couple sharing the same passion," said Deschamps.

Montgomery met Deschamps at the sliding track's start house atop Canada Olympic Park in 2005, when she was getting serious about the sport of skeleton.

"I was looking at the start list and I saw a person by the name of Deschamps on there," Montgomery recalled. "I looked around the room and she was the only girl I didn't know. There was a fella from back home who I grew up with named Deschamps.

"I introduced myself to her and told her 'my buddy's name was Deschamps and I called him Dish, so I'm going to call you Dish too.' Now we're married."

Deschamps wasn't a member of the 2010 Olympic team, but she tested the track in Whistler as a forerunner at the Games and was with Montgomery when he won his gold medal Feb. 19. That experience, she says, will help in her bid for Sochi.

"I was able to watch the competitors on their race day and see how everyone was handling the pressure," Deschamps recalled. "I just tried to be a sponge and got as much information as possible."

Montgomery proposed a few weeks later on May 5, which is Deschamps's birthday. He waited until almost midnight, Deschamps said, because his own birthday is the following day.

The newlyweds spent a short honeymoon in Vernon, B.C., before returning to Calgary for dryland training five days a week.

Montgomery expects challenges should they both travel the World Cup together again this season. He says he must guard against sacrificing his own performance in his enthusiasm to help his wife race.

"Being a husband and not standing trackside cheering on your wife might seem a little odd, but I've got to focus on my race later that afternoon," he said. "I have to learn when to back off.

"Just because we're married and have an intimate relationship doesn't necessarily provide me access to helping more than I should. I'm not the coach and she has someone to help her in that capacity."

Deschamps says she enjoys it when Montgomery is stopped on the street by someone who wants to re-live his Olympic moment.

"People are so happy and just pumped to say 'nice swig from the jug of beer,"' she said. "It's cool to see that response in people. It's great energy."

"She has said before she now carries a stick of butter in her purse to grease doorways to get my big, fat head through them," Montgomery chimed in.

Montgomery was disappointed in his results in 2010-11, finishing 11th at the world championships and ninth in the overall World Cup standings. He doesn't regret not taking the season off after his Olympic victory. He's had time to identify issues with his sled set-up and fix them as he prepares for 2014.

"It might have been advisable to take a season off, but I'd be sitting here not knowing where I was insufficient last year and I might be a whole year behind," he explained. "The 2014 season is not the time to be trying new things."

Montgomery says having a wife competing in the same sport at the highest level motivates him to pursue more success.

"I think what having a great partner enables you to do is to have as much drive as you're ever going to have because you have someone supporting you," he explained. "Any victories or progression you make is that much sweeter, having somebody to share it with, as opposed to it just being a solitary mission.

"Having won in 2010, I know Darla was a massive part of that.


-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 25, 2011 C2

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