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Morrison struggles to explain failure

Posted on February 21, 2010 at 11:47 AM

By George Johnson, Calgary Herald February 21, 2010 3:05 AM  

Calgary's Denny Morrison skates with his head down following his disappointing 9th place finish in the men's 1,500-metre speedskating competition on Saturday at the Richmond Olympic Oval.Photograph by: John Mahoney, Canwest Olympic Team, Calgary Herald

He cut a distinctively forlorn figure, gliding absently on the blue inside practice ice as the decibel level inside the Richmond Oval kept ramping every higher, pushing forward other skaters, faster skaters, medal contenders. Denny Morrison looked done. Figuratively and literally.

In those moments that seemed to drag on into eternity, the devastated double-medal threat looked adrift, displaced. "Lost" is how his coach Marcel Lacroix described his skater-in-turmoil later. And that fit.

"Every single competitor wanted to win this race,'' said Morrison. "There are always going to be three happy people and a bunch of unhappy people.

"I felt I could've today. But it goes back to the feeling that I don't really know what it is that I'm not doing right or what I'm doing wrong. I'm just not skating the way I can.

"First two laps, great. Then Poof! It's gone.''

Yes. Poof. Gone.

For another four years. Whereas in the wake of an admittedly deplorable skate in the 1,000 metres, Morrison courageously, and correctly, shouldered the blame himself, Saturday following the crushing ninth-place finish in his signature race, the 1,500, he dumped the refuse everywhere.

He questioned his training program.

He waxed nostalgic for those days pushing and pulling star-spangled American Shani Davis as they trained together on a daily basis.

He even hinted that, devastated by his inability to snare an individual medal at these Games, it might be difficult to summon his best for the upcoming team pursuit ( "I can give you the answer my sports psychologist would like me to tell you or I can give you the answer I really feel. It's not as simple as forgetting a race I prepared for for four years") and openly said Steve Elm would be of a great help in it.

On Friday, he admitted throwing a hissy-fit during training, stopping a session and pitching his glasses into the middle of the ice.

"I regret it,'' he said. "My coach,'' he admitted, "shouldn't have to treat me like a kid.''

It all smacks of misdirected frustration.

Morrison's aspirations for an individual bauble at these Games faded as he did down the stretch, over a second and half behind gold medallist Mark Tuitert of the Netherlands (1:45.57). Davis, the 1,000-metre champ, claimed silver as he had in Turin, while Norwegian Havard Bokko collected bronze.

"It's something that's been happening to me all season,'' Morrison complained. "I don't know if it's the program or what. I don't want to point any fingers. But I know that as far as lactic power and total lactic power, if we did hill sprints I could crush all these guys.

"In the last lap, you saw I lost all my speed. 'Exploded' is the term. It wasn't that I wasn't trying hard, it wasn't that I gave up, I just wasn't putting it technically into the ice the way that I should've been. That's something, for whatever reason, that I've lost over the last 12 or 15 months.

"It was kind of frustrating, knowing that as we got closer to the Olympics I was skating poorer and poorer, especially when I got tired. The first lap or two of the race today was exactly how I wanted it. I felt I was skating it efficiently and powerfully. It was coming easy. The speed was there. I was there with the top two guys in the first lap and then basically. . .

"It wasn't that I just got tired and started going slower, it was that I got tired and just started skating worse.

"Something in my training program, I don't want to point fingers, but I just couldn't do it. Physiologically I feel like I'm way ahead of most of my competitors.

"It's all technique out there. Technique in speedskating's going to give you 50 per cent."

Coach Marcel Lacroix, retaining an even keel, wasn't buying the program-let-me-down theory.

"For the last three years, his technique was fine,'' he countered. "He got a world record in the program. He won a silver medal at the world championships, and a bronze medal at the world championships.

"So what, now it's not working? Now it's the program's fault? No. No. I don't support that.''

And as for the Shani-Denny theme, Lacroix said that Davis continues to go from strength to strength, training virtually on his own, while Morrison is surrounded by a team.

"That,'' Lacroix said, "is not an excuse.

"He's probably just lost, trying to find some answers. Two days ago (in the 1,000) he didn't skate. Today, he skated. After the first two splits he was second. He came out of the corner, moving really, really well and then with 300 metres to go, his legs gave out. Just too heavy. He couldn't finish the race the way he'd like, the way he used to be able to do, even a couple of weeks ago.

"There are many factors when an athlete doesn't perform to par. It's a bit like you're in a fog. "Where am I going now? What's going on?' You're searching, reaching to find that answer.''

The inconsistency that has plagued Denny Morrison all season came to roost here at the worst possible moment. But the warning flags had been up for a while. One week at a World Cup stop in Calgary, for instance, he reached the podium in three events. Four days later in Salt Lake City, said Lacroix, "nothing. He wasn't there. Physically he was tired.''

So all that's left for Denny Morrison, for a men's team that has underperformed here, is the upcoming pursuit.

Marcel Lacroix expects him to show up ready.

"We can't,'' said the coach, "sit around and wonder if it's going to affect us. Someone like Denny is disappointed he didn't win an individual medal. But now this is, like four years ago in Turin, his only chance at a medal. And a medal's a medal.

"You can sit and cry or you get up and say 'You know what? I've still got a shot. In another sport, you miss one gate, there's no tomorrow. It's over.

"He still has a tomorrow. I really hope he sees it like that.''

© Copyright (c) The Calgary Herald




Categories: In the Spotlight, 2010 Vancouver Olympics

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