Speed Skating

Chris Iorfida - Tuesday Feb. 11, 2014 13:48 ET

Gilmore Junio puts Team Canada first, gives 1,000m spot to Denny Morrison

'In best interest of the team,' Calgary speed skater says

Denny Morrison fell during the Canadian Trials for the 1,000m, but teammate Gilmore Junio said he deserves to be in the Sochi race. (Yuriko Nakao/Reuters)

Gilmore Junio has decided to take one for the team, giving up his spot in Wednesday’s 1000-metre speed skating final for Canadian teammate Denny Morrison.

The three-time Olympian Morrison failed to qualify at the 1,000 distance at the Olympic trials in Calgary last month, falling just 50 metres short of the finish.

But Junio, who finished 11th on Monday in his Olympic debut in the men’s 500, said Tuesday it’s the right thing to do.

“How Denny is skating now, I believe it’s in the best interest of the team if he races,” Junio said in a statement released by Speed Skating Canada. “To represent Canada at the Olympics is a huge honour and privilege but I believe that as Canadians, we’re not just here to compete; we are here to win. Denny has proven to be a consistent medal threat in the distance.”

It’s true Morrison is a contender at 1,000. He’s currently sixth in the World Cup standings at the distance, with a pair of fourth place finishes. In the past, he’s won two silver medals at the world championships in the 1,000.

The 28-year-old Fort St. John, B.C., native will try to win his first individual Olympic medal. He’s won gold and silver the last two Olympics as part of Canada’s team pursuit.

“This is an amazing gesture and I’m ready to make the most of this opportunity,” Morrison said.

Shani Davis of the United States will be gunning for another groundbreaking achievement in Wednesday’s 1,000 metre race.

Davis, 31, can become the first man ever to win three consecutive Olympic gold medals in speed skating, and the first American to do three straight in any Winter Games sport.

The Chicago native, who trained extensively at the Calgary Oval earlier this century, became the first African American to win Olympic gold in an individual Winter Games sport in 2006. Since then, he’s set the world record at 1,000 and holds the top 10 sea level times at the distance.

Given that Davis has twice won Olympic gold at 1,000 but has settled for silver twice in the 1,500, you might expect him to be more desirous of grabbing gold at the longer distance.

Not so.

"Those are my babies, man. I can't love one more than the other," he told The Associated Press last week. "I've got two hands for two medals."

Davis has shown signs of mortality in recent weeks. After winning the first three World Cup races at 1,000 this season, he finished third in December in Berlin to 2010 Olympic silver medallist Tae-Bum Mo of South Korea and Michel Mulder of the Netherlands.

Last month, he split two races at the world sprint championships in January with Denis Kuzin of Kazakhstan.

Other medal contenders include Dutch competitor Kjled Nuis and Brian Hansen, like Davis from the Chicago area.

Three other Canadians join Morrison in Wednesday’s race.

William Dutton of Humboldt, Sask., and Muncef Ouardi each skated in the 500 metres on Monday.

Dutton impressed at the sprint worlds Japan last month with a fourth place showing, although some of the world’s best elected not to travel to Japan.

Vincent De Haître of Cumberland, Ont., will make his Olympic debut. The 19-year-old surprised many at the Olympic trials by posting the fastest time at 1,000.

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