Up until a few days ago, the Denny Morrison story seemed incomplete, like when you mistakenly only record half a TV show you wanted to watch. Where things left off after the 2010 Vancouver Olympics just didn’t seem like the way it was supposed to end.
Morrison has been Canada’s top men’s long-track speed skater in the middle distances for eight years, but his experience in Vancouver was a miserable one in the 1,000- and 1,500-metres, placing well out of the medals.
Coming into the 2014 Sochi Games, it seemed as if the 28-year-old from Fort St. John, B.C., who has been posting respectable times on the World Cup circuit this season, but no stunning victories, might just go quietly into retirement.
But then, Morrison turned around and rewrote the script. And this version feels a lot more like how everyone thought it would end.
Skating in place of teammate Gilmore Junio, who selflessly gave up his spot in the 1,000 metres to allow Morrison to race (he fell during Olympic qualifying last December), Morrison turned one of his best races this year, or any year, claiming the silver medal.
As Morrison prepares to take the ice again in Saturday’s 1,500 metres, there are two lessons to be extracted from his inspiring race.
The first is the one everybody’s talking about: The gracious example set by Junio, who knew he wasn’t a podium contender, and instead stepped aside for the veteran to fulfill a lifelong dream.
But the second, though subtle, is also a fascinating one. It is one of intangibles.
Olympic athletes are all in tip-top shape and pretty much all of them are on top of their mental game. In many ways, raw talent is the only true difference maker.
But the Morrison story in the 1,000 metres – his first individual Olympic medal – shows what happens when you suddenly add an intangible .
Morrison went into the race feeling a new-found sense of responsibility to not let Junio down. And that variable probably made him faster.
“I actually surprised myself with how close I was to [Dutch star Michel Mulder] with one lap to go,” Morrison said. “I knew I was on a good one.”
Call it what you want – spark, adrenalin, focus – but Morrison has it right now. And when he takes to the ice Saturday in the 1,500 metres, he will have yet another intangible at his disposal: momentum.
It could be an opportunity for Morrison to make an impact, in a race where he is not the favourite, but is certainly a man to be reckoned with.
And since Morrison has now penned the podium ending to his long-running Olympic story, the only question is: How many chapters are left to be written?