|Posted on January 28, 2011 at 11:34 PM|
By Gary Kingston, Vancouver Sun January 28, 2011 2:05 PM
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He’s still not quite back to the old Denny Morrison — supremely fit, brimming with confidence — but the long track speed skater from Fort St. John is edging ever closer after going back to some old equipment.
Morrison, skating on boots and blades he used in 2007-08, finished a season-best second on Friday in a 1,500-metre World Cup race in Moscow to Russian Ivan Skobrev.
“My race went pretty good, but there’s still lots of room for improvement,” Morrison, whose time of one minute, 46.25 seconds was .76 seconds behind that of Skobrev, said on a conference call. “It’s good to be on the podium though.
“My fitness still isn’t where it should be and my last lap wasn’t as strong as it should be.”
Morrison, the former world champion at 1,500 metres and an Olympic gold medalist in team pursuit in February, didn’t train for a chunk of the summer and spent a couple of weeks of it in track cycling camps.
He figured “the whole season was going to pretty much be a write off.” And he did languish off the pace through the fall World Cup schedule. But after experimenting with different boot and blade combinations, he went back to an old pair before nationals earlier this month and had some success.
While World Cup 1,500-metre leaders Shani Davis and Trevor Marsicano of the U.S. skipped this weekend’s World Cup, Morrison noted that he still had to beat a couple of Dutch stars, including Olympic gold medalist Mark, Tuitert, who was third on Friday, to finish second.
“Everyone has to bring it on race day. [Davis and Marsicano] weren’t there, but I still feel like I had a good skate and I’m happy with the result.”
Morrison’s podium finish was one of three on the day for Canada.
Jamie Gregg of Edmonton took advantage of the absence of the top four skaters in the World Cup 500 metre standings — two Koreans and two skaters from Japan — to claim second in a race won by Pekka Koskela of Finland.
Brittany Schussler of Winnipeg earned her first ever World Cup podium at 3,000 metres, finishing third behind Martina Sablikova of the Czech Republic and Dutch skater Ireen Wust.
Schussler admitted it was “a bit stressful” flying Wednesday into the same Moscow airport in which a bomb went off in the arrivals area on Monday, killing 35 people.
“There was talk about whether we should come at all, but Speedskating Canada, the ISU and the Russian federation talked and felt everything should be safe.”
Schussler was part of a Canadian contingent that flew in from Calgary. Coach Mark Wild said the group walked right past memorial flowers placed against the temporarily walled-off bombed area.
“It brought the reality into perspective.”
The laid-back Morrison, who flew from the Netherlands into one of the two other airports in Moscow said he wasn’t “too nervous.” He even chuckled about the fact two Dutch skaters exited customs with luggage and then walked back through the doors “and no one stopped them.”
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