By Donna Thornton/News Editor
Patrice Maxwell’s fourth-grade class at Thompson Elementary School knew a few things about their guest speaker on Dec. 10. They knew that Tim Montgomery was known, before Usain Bolt broke his record, as the fastest man in the world.
“I’m pretty fast,” Montgomery said, “But guess what happened to me? I just got released from prison.”
Montgomery explained to the group of suddenly silent students that he made some bad choices. “Where good is, evil is present also,” he said.
He told the students the choices they make are important, and encouraged them to seek the advice of teachers or parents.
Montgomery told the children to imagine that they had $86,400 to spend. If they didn’t spend it by midnight, it’s gone. But the next day they get another $86,400 to spend Few people would have that kind of money, he said, but everyone has 86,400 seconds in every day.
Olympian – page 5A
When one day is gone, the next brings another 86,400 seconds.
“Every second counts,” Montgomery said. “You have to plan accordingly. You have to understand that what you do in that second is going to carry on. It becomes a part of you.
“You need to make wise choices,” he said.
Montgomery, a silver and gold medal winner in Olympic games in Atlanta in 1996 and in Sydney in 2000, devotes a portion of his time now to speaking to young people, using his accomplishments to inspire them and past mistakes to caution them.
After success in the Olympics Montgomery later faced allegations of using performance enhancing substances and went to prison for involvement in a check-kiting scheme.
He has spoken at several local schools recently. His visit to Thompson was sponsored by Etowah County Commissioner Carolyn Parker.
Montgomery told students he was not interested in school when he was a student in South Carolina. He said there was a time when he thought, “Why do I need to study Spanish?”
At age 16, he found himself competing in track and field championships in Barcelona, Spain.
“What do you think they speak there?” Montgomery said.
Montgomery told the students he could run 30 miles per hour. “If I ran through your school zone out there I could get a ticket,” he said.
Students asked how he got to the Olympics and what it was like breaking the world record in the 100 meters.
“I’d been chasing that world record forever,” he said. He was competing against another runner, who needed one more win in a 21-race season to be the overall champion. For Montgomery to win, he needed to not only beat that runner, but to set a new world record.
“I just pressed back,” getting into his starting stance, he said, “and said ‘God help me’” When he crossed the finish line and looked back, he had set that world record.
“When you let go and do what you’ve prepared to do, you can do great things,” Montgomery said.
“So you practiced, and that’s how you got so fast,” student Cameron DeAngelo Smith asked.
“Yes, and that’s how you’ll get to be so smart,” Montgomery said.
Montgomery signed autographs for the students, and let them hold his Olympic medals. One student asked if the gold medal was solid gold.
“It’s plated with 18-carat gold,” Montgomery told them. “If it were solid gold I’d probably have a leprechaun chasing me,” he joked.
“You could beat him though,” one student responded.