Commonwealth walk champion Montag inspired by Holocaust-surviving grandmother
Australian race walker Jemima Montag says she draws on the strength of her late grandmother, who was a Holocaust survivor, after winning her second Commonwealth Games gold medal on Saturday.
The 24-year-old wears a lucky gold bracelet, part of a piece of jewellery that belonged to her grandmother, Judith, who survived the horrors of Auschwitz and died before the Tokyo Olympics last year.
Montag eased to victory on Saturday in the 10,000 metres walk — wiping tears from her eyes after crossing the line — four years after she triumphed on the Gold Coast in the 20-km walk.
“What I take from that is, in a race, it is one kilometre at a time and not thinking about the finish line,” she said.
“She (her grandmother) teaches me to take one step at a time and it also puts things into perspective.
“Towards the end of the Holocaust they marched through snow and cold for days on end in little sandals and hardly any clothing.
“She and her sister took waistbands and tied their wrists together and said ’we are getting through this together or not at all’.”
Montag and her two sisters, Piper and Amanda, all wear the golden bracelets, made from a necklace.
The science graduate, who works for a company that delivers meals to under-privileged families, says she researched her grandmother’s life after she returned from the Tokyo Games.
“In the months after the Olympics, my aunty and I went through her love letters and had them translated by a Polish racewalker friend,” said Montag.
“She had photos, passports and bracelets.”
Montag said it was deeply humbling to learn of the daily horrors and privations her grandmother and family experienced under the Nazis.
“To uncover the amount of grit, perseverance and mindfulness and presence that they had to have,” she said.
“In some letters and journal entries, she wrote about just trying to make it through the next hour and next day, and meet her dad at the gate with a piece of bread.”