St. Paul native Morgan Montgomery has big dreams. His health has been a hurdle in his path for many years, but his homecoming to the Great River Energy National Cycling Championships this week proves he is on his way.
Thanks to a unique surgical procedure by University physicians, Montgomery has overcome a lingering knee ailment to pursue his Olympic dream and keep up a family tradition.
“I want to go as far in this sport as I can,” Montgomery said. “I’m going to put 100 percent into it. I’d like to make the national team and maybe one day go to the Olympics.”
Montgomery’s father, David, was the first in the family to get into cycling. After becoming involved with speed skating in his youth, David made the transition to cycling as a cross-training tool. He moved to St. Paul and became more extensively involved with cycling in the mid to late 1970s.
He also began a family tradition of hospital visits.
“A week before Morgan was born (August 1978) I was in a training session at the Shakopee velodrome,” David said. “I got caught in a precarious position up on the rail. The bike got stuck in the struts and I went head first into the rail and got 50 stitches in my head.”
He has also suffered a twice-broken collarbone, back surgery and being hit by a truck.
Morgan’s hospital visits, on the other hand, were due mostly to his knee.
Initially discouraged by his parents from going into cycling, Montgomery participated in a number of other sports – hockey, football and baseball – until he began having knee problems.
“I was a goalie in hockey my sophomore year,” Montgomery said. “I started having trouble walking up stairs and just getting home from practice.”
His first knee operation took place when he was 15 years old. He had four more surgeries before 1998.
“I keep telling (David and Morgan) that I should just get a bed in the hospital,” Fredi Montgomery, Morgan’s mother, said. “They can just rotate in and out.”
In December 1998, Montgomery underwent a breakthrough procedure, performed at the University by Dr. Robert LaPrade. The procedure allowed Montgomery’s body to grow its own cartilage cells.
“You do an arthroscopy, go in and evaluate to make sure that they are a candidate for this procedure,” LaPrade said. “You take a biopsy of the cells, send them to a lab where they take the cells out of the cartilage matrix and then grow from a few thousand up to several million.
“When they get to the point where they have nine to 15 million, which is how many you need to put back in the joint, then you put them back.”
The surgery was a success.
“The other surgeries helped but they didn’t solve the problem,” Montgomery said. “Now my knee feels great. It hasn’t felt this good in seven years.”
It took Montgomery a year to recover, but he is now moving forward toward his goal of making the national team. He works out three to five hours a day, seven days a week.
Even his parents, who once cautioned him against the sport, are in full support of Montgomery’s quest.
“He’s always been a live wire,” Fredi Montgomery said. “Very energetic, and pretty independent. I think this sport is a good fit for him.”
Montgomery raced on Tuesday and Thursday at the National Sports Center Velodrome in Blaine. He will race again today and Saturday.
Anthony Maggio welcomes comments at [email protected]