|Posted on February 28, 2010 at 1:55 PM|
February 27, 2010 by Chris Young
Mathieu Giroux, right, Denny Morrison, left, and Lucas Makowsy jump for joy on the podium after winning gold. (Feb. 27, 2010)
RICHMOND, B.C.—Whether you’re seeking solace or simply a result, the view from the top perch of the Olympic podium is about as good as it gets.
A week after he looked ready to implode, Denny Morrison was instead exploding on to that most rarefied of spots Saturday. He wore a Team Canada hockey jersey over his speed skating bodysuit reserved especially for the occasion. He joined teammates Lucas Makowsky and Mathieu Giroux in accepting gold medals, to the delight of a crowd that included moguls skier Jenn Heil and the Prime Minister, after the Canadian trio went wire to wire in defeating the United States to win the team pursuit race to bring down the curtain on the long-track Winter Games menu at Richmond Olympic Oval.
Mostly, he breathed a huge sigh of relief after a week he could barely describe.
“(It’s been) a bit of a roller-coaster of emotions, I don’t really know,” said Morrison. “I like the conclusion the best. Sort of a story with a good ending – and turmoil in between.”
For the men, it was their first medal of any colour here. For the team, it was the fifth overall in long-track—short of the eight they hoped for, and high-performance director Brian Rahill was putting that down to home-country Olympic pressure, among other factors, in the postgame alibis.
No one was feeling the weight of those expectations more than Morrison, the 24-year-old Calgarian who was 1,500-metre world champion in 2008 and expected to challenge for the podium at that distance and the 1,000. Ranked fourth in the world, he finished ninth and 17th, pointed fingers in a number of directions, and then the next day changed course and apologized for any media offences to his teammates and coaches.
Once this event began on Friday, it was as wearying a ride on the track as it had been wading through the headlines. The pursuit team raced three times in two days with the same group, the only team not to bring anyone in off the bench. They unveiled a not-so-secret weapon they credited for their success, each racer giving a slight push to the skater in front of them every couple of laps in the eight-lap race. But forget tactics. This was a sign-of-life performance. Earlier in the day’s programme, Canada’s gold-medal favoured women’s pursuit team — Kristina Groves, Christine Nesbitt and Brittany Schussler — were relegated to the C final, after they were surprisingly defeated at the quarter-final stage on Friday.
Meantime, Morrison had rebounded to something of his own self, after mending fences with his teammates and coaches, and getting his head screwed on right and tight again.
“I think I made it obvious that what was written in many cases wasn’t what I meant,” said Morrison. “I have a great team alongside me here and I definitely couldn’t have done it without them. . . . It was motivating. It was sort of like the “Shani Davis Untouchable” newspaper that I cut out and put on my fridge for a while in Calgary to motivate me — prove this wrong, you know?”
“We needed Denny in that race,” Giroux said afterward. “He got focused back in training and he was the best teammate, as ever.”
Right before the Canadians went out, Sven Kramer’s Dutch side – the same team Canada had ousted the night before — smashed the Olympic record Canada had set in beating them. They finished in 3:39.95 — Canada beat the U.S. with a time of 3:41.37.
As Kramer complained of the Dutch record, “it didn’t count.” What did, after so much drama, hung around the necks of the Canadians.