Denny Morrison ready for upcoming season
After an impressive past season and a good summer Denny Morrison seems ready for the 2007-2008 season and the upcoming World Cup Team Selection. Last month he surprised the speed skating community by already skating a very fast time in the 1000m, indicating that he appears to be on track towards another good year. At the start of the new season Morrison reflects on his best distances, the 1000m and 1500m, and shares how this summer has been a better summer for him than the previous one.
By Jolanda Abbes
Denny Morrison looks back on a good past season. After continuously showing progress throughout the year, he concluded the season with his first World Cup gold medal at the World Cup Final in Calgary and several medals in the middle distances at the World Single Distances Championships in Salt Lake City. Morrison explains how he looks back on the most important highlights: “For me, the highlights were all near the end of the season. Certainly the World Single Distances Championships were the biggest highlight, and the most important improvement for me over the last season.” Not only did Morrison earn several medals in Salt Lake City and Calgary, but he was also able to improve his personal best times in both the 1000m and the 1500m at these last two competitions of the season.
Morrison’s 1000m has especially improved a lot over the past year. He started out the season with a personal best time of 1:08.03, but eventually ended up skating three of the four fastest times skated in the 1000m over the entire past season, including a new personal best time of 1:07.24. On top of that, in Salt Lake City Morrison lost the world title in the 1000m by only 0.02 seconds to Shani Davis, but he did manage to skate another low 1:07. How does Morrison view his impressive improvement in this distance over the past year? "I'm not sure why there was such a big improvement in my 1000m. I was focusing on each part of the race separately and was just trying to make small gains in each section. For example: my personal best opener was a 17.1 last season and I wanted to bring it down to a sub 17. After doing a 16.9 in Berlin, I had the confidence that I could bring it another tenth lower in Calgary. I ended up doing just that, and with a faster opener came a faster first lap. This energy was perpetuating, as a faster first lap also leads to a faster last lap in the 1000m. I've always been able to finish the 1000m quite well, so with an opener that was only a few tenths faster, I was able to skate a much faster race overall.”
However, it was not just Morrison’s 1000m that has improved a lot over this past season. His 1500m was already strong, but after several podium finishes in this distance at the Winter World Cups and a third place in the overall World Cup rankings, he surprised himself by skating a new personal best time of 1:42.88 at the World Single Distances Championships, which earned him a bronze medal: “After last season's 1:42.97 I wasn't sure that I would ever skate another personal best in that distance! So I am very happy with skating another sub 1:43, and hopefully I can do that a few more times this season.”
With these new personal best times in both the 1000m and the 1500m Morrison is now considered to be one of the fastest middle distances skaters in the world, together with for example Shani Davis and Erben Wennemars. Even though his 1000m as well as his 1500m are among the fastest in the field, Morrison feels his 1000m is now the better distance of the two: “I think my 1000m is better than my 1500m, because I have really good top end speed that I can hold for 600m+. The downfall is still my opener though, but I would like to be able to open at least 16.5 this season.” So despite the good results in the 1000m last year and the fact that he considers it to be his best distance at this point in time, Morrison acknowledges the fact that it still can and needs to be improved.
In order to keep improving himself, his summer training has been intense and Morrison looks back satisfied: “My summer was great. I am more fit going into this season than ever before and I typically only get stronger throughout...” In fact, due to an unfortunate accident last year, this summer was a better summer for him than the previous one: “This summer was better compared to last year’s summer in terms of both volume on the bike and on-ice volume, mainly because last summer I crashed on my bike in late June and I was unable to train much at all for two weeks. On top of that, I was unable to skate for almost six weeks after that, because of the unhealed wound on my ankle from the crash.”
That this past summer has indeed been better for him than last year’s, seems to be proven by the fact that Morrison was already able to skate some very fast times in the 500m and the 1000m as early as in September. Especially his 1000m seems promising for the rest of the season. At one of the Weekly Time Trials at the Olympic Oval in Calgary he managed to skate a 1:07.98 (16.9, 25.1 and 25.9), which is the fastest time of the season thus far.
These results have given him confidence for the upcoming season and consequently Morrison feels ready for the World Cup Team Selection, which will be skated the last weekend of October. He is prequalified for the 500m, 1000m and 1500m, but is planning to qualify for the long distances as well: “I still have to qualify for the 5000m, which will be difficult with Arne Dankers, Justin Warsylewicz, Steven Elm, and a few new faces in the long distances, making things more competitive in the 5k/10k.” On top of that, Morrison acknowledges the fact that both nationally and internationally the competition in the 1000m and 1500m will be fierce: “Nationally, in the 1000m and 1500m Steven Elm and François-Olivier Roberge are looking strong this season. And having Jeremy Wotherspoon back will also add some depth to our 1000m team. Internationally, I still see the same competitors as last season: mainly Davis, Lee, Fabris and Wennemars.”
It should come as no surprise that being able to compete at this high a level comes with a lot of pressure and Morrison feels that at certain times in the past he may not have coped with that pressure very well. However, at the same time he realizes it is something that he is still learning: “I am getting better at it as the years go by. Obviously, I never dealt with it very well at the Olympics, but I was able to make huge improvements in this area this past season.”
So now, after a great last season and a good summer, Morrison is looking forward confidently to the upcoming season. The good results over the last couple of weeks have shown him he seems to be on track towards another good year, for which he has set some new goals: “My main goals for this season are a 16.5 second opener in the 1000m, a 9.9 second opener in the 500m, and strong last laps in both the 1000m (sub 25.8) and 1500m (sub 27.9).” Still, despite the fact that his first results of the season are very promising, Morrison is careful not to get over-confident because of them and realizes they don’t imply he can sit back now and take it easy: “I'm happy about that 1:07.98 and it makes me pretty excited for the upcoming World Cup season. But at the same time I have to keep things in perspective and continue to focus on doing the little things which make all the difference in helping me skate good races like this.”
Photo credits: Meijco van Velzen, www.meijco.nl