|Posted on February 28, 2010 at 5:00 PM|
Published: February 27, 2010 5:00 PM
Updated: February 28, 2010 6:43 AM
B.C.'s Denny Morrison gives a fist pump while teammates Lucas Makowsky and Mathieu Giroux are all smiles after winning the men's long track speedskate team pursuit gold medal at the Richmond Olympic Oval on Saturday. Don Denton/Black Press
RICHMOND – Denny Morrison got in the mood for a hockey border battle a day early by winning another one for Canada.
The B.C. speedskater donned a Canadian No. 10 hockey jersey with MORRISON across the back as he, Regina's Lucas Makowsky and Mathieu Giroux did a victory lap after defeating a U.S. team to win the men's team pursuit long track speedskate gold medal at the Richmond Olympic Oval.
"I was thinking about wearing it for the warmup, but then I thought I better not get too cocky," said Morrison, who was born in Chetwynd and grew up in Fort St. John in northeastern B.C. "I'm just excited for the Canadian team. I'm going to go watch them tomorrow and cheer them on and hopefully they'll get the gold."
He had hoped to don the jersey a little earlier in these Games. Before the Olympics there were high expectations for the men's long track team, especially for the 24-year-old Morrison. But he failed to reach the podium in the 5,000 and 1,000 metres as well as his specialty, the 1,500, in which he used to be the world record holder. Here he came ninth. Although there were reports he was upset with the coaches and the sport bureaucracy, Morrison said it was all on him and used the media reports as motivation.
"It's a roller-coaster of emotions," said Morrison of the last 10 days. "I like the conclusion the best. It's like a story with a good ending, with turmoil in between.
"It's cool to be able to come together after no medals for any of the men's team. To win gold as a team, there's no better way to finish off the Olympics for us."
In the final, Canada quickly took the lead in the eight-lap race and by the end of the second one was nearly three-quarters of a second ahead of the Americans. Twice when the U.S. closed the gap, the Canadians reestablished themselves before finally winning by just .21 of a second.
Each team in the race has three skaters with the time of the last one to cross the finish line counting. They skate silently, swiftly and seemingly effortlessly. In reality they're burning lactic acid like an RV burns gas.
Every lap the teammates exchange the lead so they can draft behind each other. The squad borrowed a tactic from Morrison's short track roots. Just like Canada's gold-medal short track relay team led by Charles Hamelin on Friday night, on every lap they would push the teammate that was taking the lead allowing the others to suck in right behind him and skate with less air resistance.
"I think you're going to see all the teams doing it in team pursuits from now on," said Morrison, who was part of Canada's silver medal team at the 2006 Winter Olympics. "It really helped us today, especially in those last couple of laps when we were all getting tired, especially starting as fast as we did."
When the three stepped up to the podium to receive their gold medals, they did a little jump. It wasn't, however, as synchronized as their work on the track.
"We haven't practised that as much as we have skating," Morrison said with a grin. "I was too late I think."
Saturday may have been the last day of speedskating ever at the oval. After the Olympics it's slated to contain a couple of hockey rinks, a gym, an indoor rowing facility and training facilities for nearby SportBC.
"I wrote in my Facebook, after the pre-race session two days ago, and said that was my last day of training in a $200 million building that is going to be a rec centre," said Morrison. "That kind of makes me sad, because I'd love to be able to come out here and train. I love this city, it's an amazing facility.
"Richmond's been a great host. It's been a great journey, I'm going to miss it."
As for the jersey, Morrison is contemplating signing it and donating it for auction to KidSport BC, an organization that promotes activty for young kids.
The Netherlands took the bronze medal race by beating out Norway, who Canada defeated in Friday's semifinals, by 0.56 seconds, helping the home and native land blow by the Scandinavian country into third in the overall medal standings (24 to 21). Both the Dutch (3:39.95) and Norwegians (3:40.50) actually skated faster races than Canada on Saturday.
In the six-lap women's race, Canada accomplished a similar feat by being the quickest (3:01.41) in all of Saturday's races to beat out the Netherlands for fifth place. Germany won the gold defeating Japan by .02 of a second in the final while Poland beat the U.S. for the bronze.
Canada thought it had the horses to win a medal, but were ousted by the Americans Friday in the quarter-finals by .04 seconds. On Saturday, Kristina Groves, Christine Nesbitt and Brittany Schussler, who is living in Richmond these days, got out to an early lead stretching it out to nearly a two-second gap before beating the Dutch by .63.
"There was nothing else to do but put down the best race possible," said Groves.