|Posted on January 7, 2011 at 11:11 PM|
Thursday, January 6, 2011 By Terry Bell, The Province
Fort St. John speed skater Denny Morrison won the men’s 1,500 metres Thursday morning at the 2011 Canadian Single Distance Championships at the Olympic Oval in Calgary. Photographed by:
--, MCT File Photo
Slowly, but surely Denny Morrison is starting to get his mojo back.
On Thursday morning, the Fort St. John speed skater won the men’s 1,500 metres at the 2011 Canadian Single Distance Championships at the Olympic Oval in Calgary. Earlier this week he was talking about training hard and looking forward to improved results in the second half of a 2010-11 season that’s got off to a shaky start.
And that’s all a big improvement on the frame of mind Morrison was in 11 months ago during seven roller-coaster days at the 2010 Olympics. That was the week Morrison felt like quitting the sport he loves.
Expected to win an Olympic medal in the 1,500, he left the Richmond Olympic Oval on Feb. 20, 2010 with the weight of a ninth place finish hanging around his neck.
“People were saying things like ‘Morrison fizzled,’ and should they even let me skate in the team pursuit because I was going to let the team down,” Morrison recalled this week.
“What I found most frustrating was it was coming from people who’d never covered the sport. But it’s written so the general public sees it. I went from having all this support, from having the whole country behind me, to feeling all alone. It felt like everyone wanted me to quit the sport.”
On Feb. 26th Morrison returned to the Oval, helped Canada win a series of races and guarantee a head-to-head race for gold and silver against the U.S. a day later. Morrison, Mathieu Giroux and Lucas Makowsky returned on the 27th and won the Olympic gold.
“It’s a big part of why I’m still skating,” said Morrison when asked about the importance of the gold strike after the earlier disappointments. He’d also finished 13th in the 1,000.
“After the 1,500, what was written about me demoralized me for those (team pursuit) races. Walking into the Oval for the morning of the team pursuit, it was a pretty tough morning. It was probably the worst attitude I’ve ever had going into a race, especially a race of that magnitude.
“It was the attitude that if we had lost in the first race, that would have been my last race. I would have been done.”
But Morrison, Giroux and Makowsky did nothing but win that day.
“Going from that 1,500 to winning four races and then walking home a few hours later (Morrison bought a condo near the Oval) knowing that no matter what happens you’re going to win an Olympic medal ... that’s a pretty big change,” Morrison said.
Morrison credits his coaches and the national team support staff for helping him stay focused through the dark days. He said that once he got back on the ice his competitive nature took over and he was able to do his job.
Still, it took a while to decide whether he wanted to return for another four years. At age 20 Morrison had won a silver medal in the team pursuit at the 2006 Games in Turin. For the next four years he trained like a madman.
“I wanted to re-motivate myself (after 2010),” said Morrison of his decision to take the summer off not return to the ice until September. “After Vancouver ended, regardless of the results, it was ‘Am I ready to commit right away for another four years of doing that much training just to once again get, potentially, results that I’m not 100 per cent satisfied with?’ That was the tough question I had to ask myself.”
Morrison said he doesn’t know if that question has been completely answered. But he said that just being back on skates and feeling the ice makes him feel good.
He’s been training hard over the mid-season break, experimenting with his boots and his blades under new coaches Mike Crowe and Bart Schouten. He’s looking forward to three remaining World Cup events and world championships after one medal, a bronze in a 1,000, in nine races to start the season.
He finished sixth twice, eighth, ninth, 14th, 16th and 23rd. In Berlin he won the B Final after failing to make the A final.
“The results were all over the map,” he said.“ Japan was a pretty good example of what’s going on in my life right now.”
At Obihiro, on Dec. 11-12, he got the bronze medal in the opener but finished 14th over the same distance a day later. Morrison called that weekend a head scratcher but he’s fitter now and he’s always been a second-half guy.
“I hope so,” he said when asked if he’s in for a better second half.
“I went into the first half without much training. Since the World Cups ended I’ve been training hard, twice a day, doing the full meal deal. I still might not be as strong as the other guys but I think I’ll gain some ground.
“Next summer is going to be a different summer.”