Denny Morrison back on track after magical speed skating medal
Among 4 Canadians in men's 1,500
Denny Morrison will be back in the blades for Canada on Saturday, three days after his surprise silver medal in long track speed skating.
The medal certainly wasn’t a surprise given Morrison’s talent, but the 28-year-old wasn’t even scheduled to compete at 1,000 metres at Adler Arena after not qualifying due to a fall at the Olympic trials.
In a sequence of events that’s now reached legendary status, teammate Gilmore Junio decided a day before the race to forego his spot for Morrison, and the veteran skater grabbed his first individual Olympic medal after claiming team pursuit medals for Canada in the last two Games.
Now it’s on to the 1,500. Morrison held the world record in the 1,500 for a year beginning in 2008, and was fourth in the standings at the distance in his last full season competing in 2011-12.
The Fort St. John, B.C., native suffered a serious leg injury in December 2012 that set him back several months, but a fourth place showing in November in the 1,500 on the fast track at Salt Lake City showed he could be in the mix again.
Morrison leads four Canadian skaters into competition Saturday.
Teenager Vincent de Haitre of Cumberland, Ont., is back after a respectable 20th in his first Olympic competition in the 1,000.
Mathieu Giroux of Pointe-aux-Trembles, Que., is also competing for the second time in these Games, while Lukas Makowsky of Regina makes his debut in Sochi.
Morrison, Giroux and Makowsky are expected to rejoin together next week in a bid to repeat their gold medal team pursuit effort at the Vancouver Olympics.
The big question as the speed skating competition in Sochi has taken shape is just how high the Dutch can go?
The Netherlands has won — gold medals and — overall with six events to go. It’s not inconceivable that the Dutch could rack up 20 medals at Adler, a complete turnabout from a disappointing three gold and seven total at the Vancouver Games.
Holland’s brigade in the 1,500 will include defending Olympic champion Mark Tuitert, Jan Blokhuijsen, who got a silver medal in the 5,000 last week. Stefan Groothuis, the 1,000-metre gold medallist and Koen Verweij, who won the opening 1,500 of the season in Calgary will also contend.
It would be foolish to count out Chicago's Shani Davis, even though he finished just eighth in Wednesday’s 1,000. One of the best Winter Olympians in recent years, he put up silver medal performances in the 1,500 in Turin and Vancouver.
Davis also succeeded Morrison as the 1,500 world record holder, and has laid down an unsurpassed time of one minute, 41.04 seconds.
Denis Yuskov of Russia, Zbigniew Bródka of Poland and Brian Hansen of the U.S. have also been on the World Cup podium this season.
Havard Bokko, the bronze medallist at the Vancouver Games 1,500, seems to have been supplanted by Sverre Lunde Pedersen as Norway’s top medal threat.