|Posted on January 7, 2011 at 11:19 PM|
Fort St. John native finds new motivation after Olympic heartbreak nearly ended his career
By Gary Kingston, Vancouver Sun January 7, 2011
Denny Morrison of Canada battles Ivan Skobrev of Russia in the men's 1,500-metre speed-skating competition at the Vancouver Winter Olympics on the Richmond Olympic Oval. Morrison was highly disappointed with his ninth place finish in the race.Photograph by: John Mahoney, Postmedia News, Vancouver Sun
Ten months after the result and the aftermath that "ruined" his Olympic experience and had him contemplating quitting his sport, long-track speed skater Denny Morrison finally sat down last week and watched video of his 1,500-metre race.
It was a revelation. Sure, the 2008 world champion at that distance had finished just ninth on the Richmond Olympic Oval ice. But he wasn't nearly as bad as he had believed.
"I thought it might get emotional and I'd start crying for having such a shitty race," the 25-year-old Fort St. John product said this week from Calgary, where he won the 1,500 metres Thursday at the Canadian single-distance championships. "But I looked good for 1,100 metres, 1,200 metres.
"It was almost relieving. With all the media stuff I did this summer, the sponsor functions and speaking engagements talking about the Olympic experience, I kept repeating how bad my 1,500 was and that I didn't know why. I was expecting to see this horrible race and I wasn't nearly as bad as I told everyone. A few 10ths faster and I could have been fourth or fifth."
The ninth-place finish came three days after he was 14th in the 1,000 and he lashed out by questioning his training and suggesting he might not be able to summon his best effort for the team pursuit a week later.
Morrison was ripped in the media and later apologized for his comments. But he suddenly went from feeling like the "whole country was behind me, supporting me [to] it made me feel as if everyone was mad at me."
He still had a terrible attitude by the time the pursuit quarter-finals began, feeling that if Canada lost it would "probably be my last speed-skating race ever."
But on the start line, his competitive juices kicked in. Morrison, Lucas Makowsky and Mathieu Giroux would go on to win gold, beating the U.S. in the final.
"It was a testament to how well the coaches had prepared us. The autopilot light went on and we skated perfectly."
Still, after the "roller-coaster ride in the media," Morrison left Vancouver thinking there was only a 10 per cent chance he would stay in the sport for the Sochi 2014 Olympics. He was worn out and disillusioned.
He barely did any kind of training over the next few months before spending four days at the Burnaby Velodrome in June as a special guest of the national men's track cycling team. He got his ass kicked, he says, but it got him excited about competing again.
"It was a bit of a different perspective. It was like I was 18 or 19 again, where I felt like I could always improve and there was no end to the horizon.
"In April and May when I'm still a little bit fit, I'll take that to the track and see how I do, how much I can improve."
He calls the cycling "crazy fun" and admits he is intrigued about the possibility of trying to qualify for the 2016 Summer Olympics.
As for speed skating, given his lack of fitness and the fact he was tweaking technique, he got off to a slow start on the World Cup circuit in the fall with just one podium -- a bronze -- in nine individual races.
"It was sort of nice to have lower expectations than usual," said Morrison.
"I'm really working on technique and consistent skating. Sometimes, I hit it and I get those bronze medals. It just clicks, even if I don't know what it is."
Morrison says he's now 90 per cent sure he'll continue skating through 2014. His biggest challenge will be motivation.
"It's weird, in my old age now, it seems harder to come by."
But as he prepares for the ISU world sprint championships later this month in Heerenveen, Netherlands, and the ISU world allround championships in Calgary in February, Morrison is certain of one thing.
"It seems like no competition is ever going to be as important as the Olympics in your home country, but when I go to the start line, I'm a competitive guy and I'll give it my all. And that's when it hits me, that I still love this sport."
AT THE LINE: Morrison was timed in one minute 44.80 seconds on Thursday, to finish .21 seconds ahead of Makowsky. ... Olympic gold medallist Christine Nesbitt of London, Ont., who has won every World Cup race at 1,000 and 1,500 metres this season, won the women's 3,000 in a personal best time of 4:03.49, nearly four seconds ahead of Brittany Schussler of Winnipeg.
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