|Posted on November 9, 2013 at 5:35 PM|
Ed Willes Published: November 8, 2013, 7:52 pm
CALGARY — After breaking his ankle almost a year ago, Denny Morrison is trying to climb back to the top of the speedskating world in the deepest, most competitive distance in his game.
There might be easier jobs. Rob Ford’s image consultant pops to mind. But if Morrison had lingering questions about the difficulty of the task he faces, he got some pointed answers in Calgary on Friday at the first World Cup event of the racing season.
“People have different plans at different points in the season,” Morrison said after his 11th place finish in the men’s 1500 meters. “Some people are going faster now. I plan on going faster later.”
If only it were that simple.
Morrison, the two-time Olympic medallist in team pursuit and two-time individual gold medallist at the World Championships, started his march towards Sochi with, depending on your point of view, a discouraging result on his home track or a result that will motivate him in the run-up to the Winter Olympics.
Skating in the first pair, he posted a time of 1:44.22, then watched as 10 other skaters passed him including Dutchmen Koen Verweij who won gold at 1:42.78 and longtime American star Shani Davis, who finished second. Morrison’s time was over two seconds slower than his personal best of 1:42.01 which also stood as the world record for over a year.
“It’s motivating,” he said. “I’ve got a few things to work on and I’m pretty sure I can identify what they are.”
“It’s just different technical cues,” said the 28-year-old from Fort St. John. “I skated that like a (3000 meters) and not enough like a 1000. I need to get snappier and more aggressive in the race. I need a little more speed early, a little more speed in the middle and a little bit more at the end.”
To that end, Morrison has embarked on a training program which, theoretically, will lead to steady improvement on the road to Sochi. In addition to the broken ankle, suffered during a cross-country skiing mishap last December, he’s also been dealing with a rib injury and Friday’s race was just his second 1500 of the year.
“The way I see it I’m just trying to get the ball rolling right now,” said Morrison.
His coach, meanwhile, didn’t sound overly concerned about Friday’s result. Bart Schouten has been with Morrison since shortly after the Vancouver Olympics and says his charge is working toward his comeback in the prescribed manner.
“I think in the past he would have panicked but he’s definitely matured,” said Schouten. “Denny isn’t the same Denny he was in 2006 and 2010. He’s handling situations better. He’s focusing on the process and the things he has to do to get back to the top of the world again.
“We’re OK with this race.”
Which is how Morrison assessed things.
Denny Morrison, centre, a two-time Olympic medallist in long track speed skating, rides his motorcycle in a gay pride parade in Calgary, Alta., Sunday, Sept. 1, 2013.
“If you would have talked to me after a race like this in 2009 I probably would have barely talked to you guys (in the media),” he said. “I would have been freaking out, throwing things around the changing room. I’ve learned that doesn’t help anything. All I can do is be motivated by what happened and use that.”
Morrison is scheduled to skate in the 1000 meters and the men’s team pursuit on Saturday. Elsewhere with the Canadians on Friday, Edmonton’s Jamie Gregg won bronze in the men’s A 500 meters; London’s Christine Nesbitt, a medal favourite in the 1000 and 1500 meters in Sochi, finished 13th in the women’s 500 meters; Winnipeg’s Brittany Schussler placed 13th in the women’s 3000 meters and Ottawa’s Ivanie Blondin was 16th; Regina’s Lucas Makowsky was 17th in the 1500 and Humboldt, Sask.’s William Dutton was 15th in the 500.