Speed Skating

Chris Iorfida - Thursday Feb. 20, 2014 21:16 ET

It's Canada vs. U.S. in men's team pursuit, too

Denny Morrison goes for 3rd Sochi Olympics medal

Denny Morrison, right, leads the Canadian men in team pursuit.
Denny Morrison, right, leads the Canadian men in team pursuit. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

The Canadian men and women will look to finish on a high note in the last events of the long track speed skating competition at the Sochi Olympics.

The team pursuit begins Friday at Adler Arena. The men will compete to determine the finalists for Saturday over two rounds of action, while the women skate in the quarter-finals, with the semis and finals taking place Saturday.

Canada's Denny Morrison will be aiming for a third Sochi Games medal and fifth career Olympic medal. The 28-year-old from Fort St. John, B.C., won Canada’s only individual long track medals in Sochi, a silver in the 1,000 metres and a bronze in the 1,500.

Morrison and teammates Lucas Makowsky of Regina and Mathieu Giroux of Pointe-aux-trembles, Que., are the same trio which won a surprise gold in the event at the Vancouver Olympics.

The Canadian men rose to the occasion with victories in three rounds in Vancouver, and also got some needed help when the Dutch were upset in another head-to-head matchup.

Morrison was also a part of the team that won silver at the 2006 Turin Olympics.

Vincent De Haître, the 19-year-old from Cumberland, Ont., joins the team this time around but will likely be an alternate unless an injury occurs.

Canada is pitted in the quarter-finals against the Americans, who are desperate to win their first speed skating medal in Sochi. Chicagoan Shani Davis, the four-time Olympic medallist who didn’t participate in the team pursuit in either of the last two Games, leads a group that will include two of Jonathan Kuck, Brian Hansen and Joey Mantia.

Dutch skaters are looking to finish with a flourish in one of the most dominant Olympic team performances of all time, having so far won 21 of a possible 30 medals, including six gold.

The Netherlands can choose between two gold medallists (Sven Kramer, Jorrit Bergsma) and two silver medallists (Jan Blokhuijsen, Koen Verweij) as it opens competition against South Korea, which boasts Vancouver Games gold winners Seung-Hoon Lee and Tae-Bum Mo.

Poland’s Zbigniew Brodka, the 1,500 metre gold medallist, leads his team against Norway, who pulled Havard Bokko and others out of the 10,000 Wednesday to focus on the team pursuit.

Women's team pursuit

The men’s team pursuit is eight laps in duration. The two teams start at opposite sides of the oval, and the clock stops when the last of the three skaters moving vertically crosses the finish line.

The women’s team pursuit is contested over six laps.

Christine Nesbitt of London, Ont., and Brittany Schussler of Winnipeg will look to salvage their on-ice experience in Sochi.

Nesbitt in the past year has dealt with health issues, and her confidence is at a low point after failing to reach any World Cup or Sochi Olympic podiums. The 28-year-old had been the world’s most dominant women’s skater in the 1,000 and 1,500 in the three years since the Vancouver Games.

Schussler hasn’t been overly pleased with her Sochi results, and then took flak from some on Twitter after posting a selfie taken with Vladimir Putin when the Russian president visited Canada Olympic House.

Kali Christ of Regina and Ivanie Blondin of Ottawa are the other options for the women’s team.

Canada failed to reach the Vancouver Olympics podium in women’s team pursuit, in what was considered a big upset. Canada had won the event at the Turin Games, and in late 2009, Nesbitt, Schussler and Kristina Groves set a world record time in pursuit that still stands.

The American women, featuring World Cup podium stalwarts Heather Richardson and Brittany Bowe, were unlucky to draw the powerhouse Dutch. The Netherlands can choose from Sochi gold medal winners Ireen Wust, Jorien ter Mors, bronze medallist Lotte van Beek, and team pursuit veteran Marrit Leenstra.

Sang-Hwa Lee and the South Koreans renew the country’s rivalry with Japan on ice, while Poland and Norway meet for the second time in a hour at Adler Arena after their male counterparts do battle.

There is guaranteed to be a new women’s team pursuit champion as there is no entry from Germany, which edged Japan in the 2010 Olympic final.

 

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