Montgomery ready to make Canadian Olympic history
By DONNA SPENCER -- Canadian Press
Carol Montgomery's heart has always been in running.
She may be a medal threat in the women's Olympic triathlon in Sydney, but it's her 10,000-metre race on the track 11 days later that really has her pumped.
"I don't have much chance of making the 10,000 final as a runner, but that's what I'm looking forward to almost more so than the triathlon," said the 34-year-old, who will be the first Canadian to compete in two different sports at the same Olympics.
"I'm focusing more on the triathlon because I know that's where my chances are of getting a medal, but I love to run. That's why I'm attempting to do two.
"It's hard to explain. Triathlon is fun and that's what I do for a living, but running is my hobby. I'll always run, but when I retire from the sport of triathlon, I doubt I'll really ever swim again or go out for a bike ride."
Montgomery faced quitting all sports last year because of a mysterious leg injury that had dogged her since 1996. Her leg would go numb during races.
Her goal last year was simply to finish top 14 in World Cup races and thus reach the Canadian Olympic Association's qualifying standard.
"I did my last race on Oct. 10 in Cancun and I didn't finish it," she recalled. "I decided I was either going to figure out what was wrong with this leg and get it fixed or I wasn't going to race again. It was just too hard on me mentally and physically."
Doctors determined she had a partially blocked artery in her groin area. Montgomery had surgery on Dec. 28 and began rehabilitation.
When she raced her first triathlon in Rio de Janeiro three months later, it was like someone had thrown on a light switch. She won that race and then two weeks later in California ran well under the Canadian Olympic Association qualifying standard of the 10,000 metres.
She followed that up with a second-place finish at the world triathlon championship in Perth, Australia in April on a course that was later discovered to have been two kilometres short on the 10-kilometre run portion.
"I was just so surprised how well I ran off the bike." said Montgomery. "Before the surgery and before 1996, I was a good runner off the bike, but I was never that much better than the other girls."
She is that much faster than the other girls now on the run. An average swimmer and fair cyclist, she has won all her races this year coming from behind with blistering runs.
In her last triathlon before Sydney, a World Cup event in Toronto in July, Montgomery had sloppy transitions and came off the bike two and a half minutes behind leader and Canadian teammate Sharon Donnelly.
Montgomery simply devoured the runners in front of her and caught Donnelly with less than two kilometres to go for the win.
"She was flying," said Donnelly.
Said Montgomery: "I found if something went wrong I'd be out of the race and I realize if I'm healthy I can pull myself back into contention with the way I'm running. It is a confidence-booster knowing I could run that well."
It may give her a psychological edge in Sydney as her competitors will be looking over their shoulders for her and all Montgomery will have to do is run like the wind.
"Clearly the medals are going to get won on the run portion of the triathlon," said Canadian team coach Barrie Shepley. "You may lose it on the swim and bike, but you're going to win it on the run."
"If she gets off in the right position the other girls now are going to be frightened because they've seen how fast she can run. They'd almost written her off over the last three or four years because these injuries had reduced her to the point where she lost her confidence and she wasn't able to train healthily."
Montgomery splits her time between training in San Diego and her home town of North Vancouver. She is married to Dr. Mark Roberts and has a dog named Hershey and a cat named Cooper.
The triathlon, a 1.5-kilometre swim in the Sydney harbour, a 40-kilometre bike and a 10-kilometre run, will be a medal sport at the Olympics for the first time in Sydney and the women's race will be the first medal event of the Games on Sept 15.
The Australians are strong in this event. Aussies Michelle Jones and Loretta Harrup will be Montgomery's rivals for gold.
"With this being Australia, they picked triathlon as their opening event because they thought they would kick everybody's butt," said Shepley. "They want to start off with a couple of medals to get the party going in their home country. We would love to stop the party and get our own going that first morning."
Montgomery likes the Sydney course, especially the run which has a couple of hills in it.
"Everybody is like 'Oh Carol's not going to run that well on this course because she's a track runner,"' said Montgomery. "I started out as a cross-country runner. I don't tell them that."
Her goal for her 10,000-metre race after the triathlon is simply to run close to her personal best time of 32 minutes 11 seconds.
"You're in control of your own destiny when it comes to running," said Montgomery. "In the triathlon there's flat tires or in the swim you can get hit or kicked in the face and put your whole day off. The race can get ruined by other factors that are totally out of your control."