|Posted on February 21, 2010 at 4:58 AM|
By Shi Davidi (CP)
RICHMOND, B.C. — Denny Morrison emerged from his latest poor performance at the Olympic and began to question everything.
The 24-year-old long-track speedskater from Fort St. John, B.C. - a former world champion in the distance and one of Canada's top medal hopefuls at the Richmond Oval - finished a disappointing ninth in the men's 1,500 metres at the Vancouver Games on Saturday.
The result follows Morrison's frustrating 13th-place finish in Wednesday's 1,000. This time he finished in one minute 46.93 seconds after falling apart badly heading into the final turn of the 1,500, leaving him wondering if he had prepared properly coming into the competition.
"That's kind of what's been happening to me all season long," said Morrison. "I don't know if it's something with the program or what, because I know as far as lactic capacity or total lactic power is concerned, if we were to do hill sprints I could crush all these guys.
"In the last lap, you saw, I just lost all my speed and basically, exploded is the term. It wasn't that I wasn't trying hard, it wasn't that I gave up, I just wasn't technically putting it into the ice the way I should have been. And that's something I've lost in the last 12 or 15 months and it's kind of frustrating to be getting closer and closer to the Olympics and know that I'm skating poorer and poorer, especially when I get tired."
Dutchman Mark Tuitert won the gold in 1:45.57, while 1,000-metre champion Shani Davis of the U.S., took silver in 1:46.10. Davis holds the world record in the event.
Havard Bokko of Norway finished third in 1:46.13.
Regina's Lucas Makowsky, who skated last in the pair with Davis, finished 19th in 1:48.61.
Mathieu Giroux of Pointe-Aux-Trembles, Que., was 14th in 1:47.62 while Kyle Parrott of Minnedosa, Man., was 37th in 1:52.67.
Morrison has one final shot at the Olympic podium in the men's pursuit Feb. 27, and didn't pull punches when asked if his struggles so far would affect him.
"I can give you the answer the sports psychologist would like me to tell you or I can give you the answer I really feel," he said. "Sure enough I can forget about these races and prepare for that race, but it's not always as simple as forgetting about a race that I've been preparing for literally for four years.
"Having finished the Torino Olympics with a bad taste because I got 11th with a bad crossover problem in that race, then four years later, hoping to redeem myself, every year at world championships which is like the Olympics in a non-Olympic year, I've been on the podium in the 1,000 or 1,500, and then I came back the Olympic year and got whatever. It's silly."
The powerhouse Canadian long-track team has had a slow start at the Oval. Tagged to win nine medals at the Games, the team has only collected two so far - a gold from Christine Nesbitt and a bronze from Kristina Groves.
Morrison came into the Games and after a strong warmup skate in the men's 5,000, he was staggered by his inability to skate well in the 1,000.
The most jarring part for Morrison is that he's always been known as a big-event skater, invigorated by the spotlight and pressure rather than scared off by it.
"He worked, but working at this level isn't good enough," coach Marcel Lacroix said of Morrison's 1,000 result. "You have to be technically sound and the technique wasn't there."
Using a consistent stride is something that's come and gone over the last four years for Morrison, who feels he was at his technical best when he Davis trained together in the two years leading up to the Turin Olympics.
They share similar body frames and a similar skating technique, and following Davis around the oval helped keep Morrison in tune. Once the introduction of Own The Podium forced Davis to train elsewhere, Morrison had to maintain it more on his own, but still elevated himself into a world champion and elite skater.
This season, however, was a trying one as he struggled in the 1,000, was good but not great in the 1,500 and fiddled around with the set-up on his skates more often than he would have liked.
"The first lap and a half, two laps of the race today was exactly how I wanted it, I felt exactly where I want to be, skating efficiently and powerfully," Morrison said of the 1,500. "It was coming easy, the speed was there, I was on par with the top guys and then all of a sudden . . . it wasn't that I just got tired and started going slower, it was that I got tired and started skating worse.
"Is it something with my training program? I don't want to point fingers again. I just couldn't do it."
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