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Whistler finally sees Canadian flag raised, anthem sung

Thousands come out to see gold medal presented to skeleton racer Jon Montgomery




Watching her 31-year-old son bow his head and accept a gold medal around his neck is a moment Joan Montgomery will never forget.

"The heart just bursts," she said Sunday on her long drive back to Russell, Manitoba with husband Eldon, hours after Jon Montgomery received his medal in Whistler Saturday night.

"We're dreadfully proud."

It was a common thread of emotion, binding together the thousands of people at Whistler Medals Plaza and throughout the village when the skeleton racer jumped with both feet onto the top step of the podium to receive his medal.

Pride. Swelling in the hearts, in every waving flag, in every cheering voice.

Montgomery's was the first medal to be awarded to a Canadian in Whistler, which has played host to many medals ceremonies but none with a Canadian athlete. Until Saturday.

It was also the first time the Canadian flag has been raised high into the night sky, the first time the loud chorus of voices joined in singing O Canada.

"It never gets old," said Montgomery following the ceremony, his gleaming medal resting on his chest. "That's a song you can sing all day!"

When asked what it felt like to have the gold medal around his neck the day after his winning skeleton run down the Whistler Sliding Centre track, Montgomery said: "It feels heavy and it feels pretty spectacular to be out there and having an Olympic gold medal put around your neck."

To his fans he had two simple words: "thank you."

"A big piece of this medal goes to Canada and all the people behind me and all the support that they give our amateur athletes."

In the crowd were members of the Canadian luge team who came out to support Montgomery.

"Every athlete's dream is to be on top of the podium and watch your flag and hear your anthem so it instills a real sense of pride and also a real drive," said Sam Edney, 25, who raced to a seventh place finish in the men's singles luge competition earlier in the Games. It was the best-ever finish by a Canadian in that discipline.

"It ignites a drive inside myself. I want to be there one day. I want to be in his position."

Edney said half the luge team were gathered together to watch Montgomery race to gold.

"The screams that we were letting go were probably the loudest, you could hear them in the whole village," he said. "I think every Canadian just has such joy for every other athlete that does well and gets on the podium. So it's a really cool experience."

It was an experience that Drew Leathem didn't want to miss, especially after seeing the gold medal race first hand on Friday night.

That's why he got into the stand-by line up for medals plaza at 4 p.m. on the chance that he and his family could get inside and see the ceremony.

"We saw him win last night and we wanted to come by," said Leathem. "We thought he represented Canada really well. He seemed like a humble, nice guy."

On the long drive back to Russell, Joan and Eldon Montgomery will be thinking a lot of this "humble, nice guy" who is now the pride of the country.

For his mom, she's remembering what she felt the first time she held him in her arms.

"I always felt he was born for a reason," she said. "I always felt there was something in his future."

She just had no idea it would be this big.