Denny Morrison buoyed by 1st race since motorcycle accident
Decorated Olympian speedskater raced men's 1,000 metre in Calgary
The result didn't matter to Denny Morrison. Stepping to the start line and racing did.
Less than a year after serious injuries sustained in a motorcycle wreck nearly ended not just his speedskating career but his life, the decorated Olympian raced a men's 1,000 metres at the Olympic Oval in Calgary.
It was in a Canada Cup — one level below a World Cup — and the final international speedskating event of the season.
Morrison owns four Olympic medals, including a team pursuit gold from 2010. He won silver in the 1,000 and bronze in the 1,500 in 2014 for Canada's only medals in long-track speedskating.
But the 30-year-old veteran from Fort St. John, B.C., admitted to feeling incredibly nervous in the 24 hours prior to Thursday's race, which would have otherwise been a low-key event for him.
Felt like a junior
"I was more nervous for this race than I was for the Olympics because nervousness can be associated very directly with your level of preparation," Morrison said.
"I felt like a junior. I didn't know how prepared I was for this race, I didn't know what my expectations were, I didn't know how hard to try and I didn't know what I was capable of. The nerves were out the roof. The heart was pitter-pattering away."
His time of one minute 9.41 seconds surpassed his expectations and would have been good enough for fourth, but Morrison was disqualified.
He forgot to don Kevlar ankle protectors required in domestic competition, but optional in World Cup races. Morrison was unperturbed by the gaffe.
"I would much rather forget my ankle guards, in terms of getting rid of the rustiness, than forget to change lanes or toe in on the start line or to clip myself in the turn or fall or something like that," Morrison said.
"My time doesn't count, but ultimately I know what the time was and if it was a World Cup where I would stack up."
Along with a broken right leg, Morrison suffered a concussion, a punctured lung, a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee, bruised liver and kidneys and a small fracture in a bone near his spine when his motorcycle struck a left-turning car May 7 in Calgary.
Laying in his hospital bed last May, Morrison vowed to be back racing this World Cup season. His banged-up body had a different timetable.
"So much patience was involved in getting here today, but I guess patience is something I've improved on in the last year," he said.
More time and training
Morrison's silver-medal time in Sochi, Russia, was 1:08.43. Given how terrible his last lap felt Thursday, the former world champion was convinced he can get back to that level again with more time and training.
"My bread and butter is the last lap and today my opener was the best part of my race," Morrison said.
"My last lap was dismal. I'm only going to improve from here. This is the worst race I'll do in the next two years, but I'm really happy with it.
"It gives me some confidence going into next season having done one. This is what I consider the foundation for next season and leading into the 2018 Olympics."
Morrison has come back from major injury before and won Olympic medals. He broke a bone in his left leg while skiing just 14 months before Sochi.
He fell in the 1,000 at the Olympic trials, but teammate Gilmore Junio vacated his spot in the distance so Morrison could race it in Sochi. Morrison won silver and Junio ascended to folk-hero status in Canada because of his selflessness.
Morrison wrote an open letter this week to Canadian snowboarder Mark McMorris, who broke his femur Feb. 21 in a competition in California.
"If you work hard with your physio team and trust that setbacks are part of the process, I promise you will be able to compete again and perform at the highest level," Morrison wrote.
The speedskater said Thursday he hadn't received a reply from the snowboarder.
"Now that I've experienced things, I just want to share that experience with whoever could benefit from learning something from that," Morrison said.