|Posted on November 7, 2013 at 4:40 PM|
Speed skater Denny Morrison gathered with the 2014 Winter Olympians at the Jack Poole plaza for the lighting of the cauldron in Vancouver on May 10
By Gary Kingston, Vancouver Sun November 6, 2013
Some of Denny Morrison’s friends have taken to calling him a “hipster” given that he’s been getting around Calgary for the past several months on his “pretty cool,” pannier pack-equipped Electra bicycle.
He rides the kilometre to the grocery store when necessary. He commutes five kilometres each way to the Olympic oval where he trains as a long track speed skater. And he rides his bike to CFL games at McMahon Stadium.
The Fort St. John product and two-time Olympic medallist even recently sold his 2004 Audi S4, though he concedes part of the reason for halving his automobile collection was to make a payment on a long-outstanding loan from the “Bank ‘o Dad” and to ensure he has enough living expenses.
He still has the cherished, though rarely driven, sleek 1991 Dodge Stealth that he bought shortly before becoming a carded athlete in 2003. And he still owns a road motorcycle for those let-loose rides into the mountains.
“But I’m not a hipster, I’m just someone who utilizes a bicycle,” says the 28-year-old whose laconic speech and demeanor seem at odds with his extreme competitiveness and need for speed.
That need is highlighted on his twitter page, where he describes himself as a “motorcycle driving, bicycle riding, speed skating speed freak.” As he says in an interview, it’s all part of his “high-risk, high-reward personality.”
And the irony there, of course, especially given his other potentially dangerous passions like mountain biking and snowboarding, is that his 2012-2013 World Cup season was cut short by a broken fibula sustained while, of all things, cross country skiing. It was crazy, really. Lost an edge on a slight dip in the trail, went off track and his ski went under a downed log. The fibula snapped and he sprained some ankle ligaments.
Morrison had got off to a terrific start last season, winning one World Cup 1,000-metre race and finishing second in another before the pre-Christmas accident while enjoying some down time with friends. He didn’t require surgery on the fibula and did return to skate the season-ending world single distance championships, finishing 13th in 1,000 and seventh in the team pursuit.
“The broken leg affected last season for sure,” he said in an interview this week. “But by the time April passed, it was the last thing on my mind as far as dealing with any negatives in training. I just used it as a reminder to keep me focused on what I’m doing.”
And that is preparing for a World Cup season that starts this weekend in Calgary and the 2014 Sochi Olympics. He would desperately like to add an individual medal to the gold (2010) and bronze (2006) he has earned in the team pursuit.
He went into both those Games as a medal threat at 1,000 and 1,500 and was bewildered when he didn’t skate well. Now supposedly at his peak age-wise, he believes he’s matured and figured out the mental game that is so crucial to being at his best at Olympic time.
“In some ways, yes,” he says when asked if he’s a better skater now than he was at Turin. “When I look back at some of my videos when I was 22, there was so much young energy and scrappiness.
“Now, I have a much better grasp on the reality of sport and life. Before, I was so conscious of trying to control every single aspect of competition. But you can’t control everything.
“It was all part of me wanting to prepare the best way possible and in every way possible. There were so many things I used to think about – superstitions, what shoelaces to tie first. All kinds of things that had no effect on the outcome of the race.
“Now, I’m focusing on worrying about what I can control and that’s proper execution of my race plan. I know it’s all cliché kind of things, but it’s what I have to do.”
Morrison spent the early part of this week training in Salt Lake City, which like Calgary has the fastest ice in the world. But why there? Why not continue training at home?
“Top secret,” he said in typical deadpan.
No, really, why skate in Utah?
“Lots of different reasons. But everyone (from other countries) comes to Calgary to prepare (the week before the opening World Cup). And so, it gets really busy. It was nice to go to Salt Lake. It was more like summer training and I didn’t get too distracted by other competitors.
“Everyone has a plan and a reason for doing certain things and it comes down to what feels right.”
With his first race set for Friday, the plan appears to have worked.
“Yesterday and today,” he said of training sessions Monday-Tuesday at the 2002 Olympic venue, “were my two best training sessions. I had some of the best lap times (of pre-season) and best times of my entire career.”
And that career may not end in Sochi. Provided he can stay healthy, Morrison says he sees no reason why he won’t skate at a fourth Olympics in South Korea in 2018.
But he’s pondering taking some extended time away from the oval after February and perhaps even trying his hand at a summer sport with a view to competing at the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto or the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
“I’ve dabbled in rowing and track cycling and really enjoyed both. No matter what happens in Sochi, I may try one of those two for a couple of seasons.”
He attended a couple of one-week track cycling training camps after the 2010 Olympics and graded extremely well on subsequent lab fitness tests.
Right now, however, the focus is on left turns on the ice oval, the pre-Sochi plan he and his coach put together in February, 2012 and being in top form for the Canadian Olympic team trials in late December-early January since he couldn’t pre-qualify during World Cups last winter because of the broken leg.
“I like the pressure,” he says, adding that a win or two in four World Cups this fall would be nice.
“I race every race to win. That’s part of the plan, to prepare to win every race . . . to learn from it and get stronger and stronger and then have my best races at the Olympics.”
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