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Solid start of season for Denny Morrison

With several podium finishes at the first World Cups of the season, Denny Morrison gave a good start to the 2011-2012 season. Where the post-Olympic season was disappointing for him due to an admitted lack of training, and as such served as a wake up call, this season was preceded by a good summer, jam-packed with motivated training, which has translated into solid results on the ice so far. With these promising results under his belt, Morrison reflects on the first half of the season and looks forward to what is still to come.

By Jolanda Abbes

Last season was not Denny Morrison’s best season. Even though he acknowledges that there had been a serious lack of training during the 2010 summer, he also admits to the fact that it was a frustrating season for him, in which he did manage an occasional podium finish at the Word Cups, but at the World Single Distances Championships in Inzell in March he finished 6th and 5th in respectively the 1500m and 1000m, which are usually considered to be his signature distances: “My last season was a wash. I wasn't motivated to train following the Olympics, and was enjoying a physical and mental break from speed skating. I never started speed skating specific training until July, and even then it was intermittent with no commitment, as I would take time off whenever I felt like it. I never stepped back on the ice until late-August. All in all, last season served as a wake up call that I do need to train in the summer if I want to do well. Even with the lack of training, I was still frustrated with my results most of the season and especially at WSD because the field of competitors wasn't as strong as it has been in the past and I think I should have been able to place better, even given the circumstances. My results last season are fresh motivation for the upcoming seasons though. I'm excited to train again!”

This regained motivation resulted in a very different past summer for Morrison, compared to the summer before: “Unlike last summer, when I wished the skating season would never start again, this post season I spent twelve days in different parts of Europe, had my mental and physical break from speed skating, and by the end of March I already felt excited to get back to training, though we never started until the second week of May. Our group has done what, for many skaters in the group, has been an unprecedented amount of cycling in the summer.”

And so far all this hard training seems to be paying off, even though Morrison feels he may still not be as fit as some other years. At the first World Cup of the season, in Chelyabinsk, he finished 3rd in the 1000m and 5th in the 1500m, and a week later, in Astana, he added a 5th place in the 1000m and a silver medal in the 1500m. And finally, at the third World Cup, in Heerenveen, he finished 6th in the 1000m and 5th in the 1500m. Contrary to last season, when Morrison’s results at the Fall World Cups varied from a podium finish to 14th and 16th place finishes, his results seem to have become more consistent again. Morrison reflects: “This season the top 5 or so guys seem closer packed than sometimes in the past. Physically I'm stronger but still maybe not as fit as some other years, and I still have some technical adjustments to make which should improve my times.”

This season, two new ovals were added to the World Cup circuit; the before-mentioned ovals in Chelyabinsk, Russia, and in Astana, Kazakhstan. Morrison, a veteran on the World Cup circuit, enjoyed the new cities and ovals as a welcome change to the ovals he’s been to many times before, like the Thialf in Heerenveen: “Going to some new destinations was quite fun. Being on the World Cup circuit for many seasons now, it's not as interesting anymore going to Holland, since we usually go three times per year. I think I've competed in Holland close to 20 times now. And as popular as speed skating is in Holland, even the fans seem to be getting tired of watching. What's the point for them to come watch a World Cup in the Fall, when they can watch a World Championships later in the year when everyone is skating faster...? That said, the organizing committee moved us to a new hotel this year in Sneek instead of Wolvega. Since the hotels and the ovals are where we spend 90% of our time while on the road competing, this new hotel was a refreshing change. However, going to a new oval in a new city, or a new oval in a new country, is always much more exciting. Astana was a pretty cool city to visit. Most ovals now are built as multi sport facilities, so it was very awesome from a speed skater’s perspective to compete in a facility that was built specifically for speed skating.”

What was new in Heerenveen, however, was the Team Sprint, which was a demonstration event at the third World Cup of the season. As a middle distance specialist, the Team Sprint should fit a speed skater like Morrison perfectly, but he was not able to race it in Heerenveen. As with the Team Pursuit, in which Morrison captured Olympic gold in Vancouver, a Team Sprint team consists of three skaters. The event is 1200m (three laps) and one skater is dropped off each lap. The skater who races all three laps, sets the time. Morrison: “The Team Sprint looks like a lot of fun. I would have loved to have raced it, but because it was only a demo event and our actual Team Pursuit team still had yet to get enough points towards qualifying for WSD, my priority was to help the team get as good of a spot as possible in that event. I will have the best last lap of anyone in future Team Sprint events though.”

Together with Stefan Waples and Jordan Belchos, Morrison finished 5th in the Team Pursuit in Heerenveen. Combined with their 9th place in Chelyabinsk, Team Canada is currently in 6th place overall. To qualify for the World Single Distances Championships, Team Canada needs to be in the top 8, and they still have one more Team Pursuit to race before the World Single Distances Championships, at the World Cup in Hamar.

And now, with these solid results to look back on, Morrison is confidently looking forward to the Canadian Single Distances Championships early January, and the remainder of the season, including the World Sprint Championships in Calgary and the World Single Distances Championships in Heerenveen: “Qualification for World Sprints will be the goal for me at the Canadian Single Distances Championships. I will probably qualify for World All-rounds as well, but depending on the schedule, I have some decisions to make for what I want to race. I don't want to spend ten weeks in Europe. As far as my skating is concerned, things seem to be closer to getting back on track. I know certain aspects of my technique can be improved, which will better my overall times, so now the goal is just to work on those and crush everyone this winter.”

The Canadian Single Distances Championships will take place from January 5-8 in Calgary. At this competition, spots can be earned for the Winter World Cups and World Sprints.

Photo credits:
Photo 1:
Erik Pasman
Photo 2: Daniel Yeow