SOCHI, Russia — Double Olympic medallist Denny Morrison feels inspired to continue racing towards the 2018 Winter Games because of the generosity of his Canadian teammate Gilmore Junio.
Junio stepped aside to let Morrison race the 1,000 metres at the Winter Olympics in Sochi. Morrison delivered a silver for Canada’s first speedskating medal in Sochi and followed that up with a bronze in the 1,500.
"I’ve just found motivation and wanted to do another Olympics because of what’s happened between Gilmore and I," Morrison said Sunday at a news conference. "I’ve read a few things where he said he’s appreciated me being his teammate and has learned some things along the way.
"That’s almost inspired me to want to continue to train so I can continue to pass on whatever knowledge I have to the other athletes as well as Gilmore."
Morrison slipped and fell in the 1,000 at Canadian trials last month. Junio, a 500-metre specialist, claimed the Olympic berth in the 1,000.
Vacating his spot for Morrison has made the 23-year-old Calgarian as much of a Canadian celebrity as Morrison.
"People talk about it as being a huge sacrifice, but I don't see it that way," Junio said. "It was such an easy decision. It was such a simple decision for me. It was about giving Canada a chance to win a medal."
Junio finished 10th in the 500 metres in Sochi. He believes training alongside Morrison can help him get faster in both that distance and the 1,000 before the next Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
"Hopefully we've got a couple more years training together so we'll be stronger than ever," Junio said.
Morrison earned a $15,000 bonus from the Canadian Olympic Committee for his silver and picked up another $10,000 for his bronze. The 28-year-old from Fort St. John, B.C., wants to reward Junio for his sportsmanship, although it might not be cash.
"As far as sharing with Gilmore, it's something I'd like to do in a roundabout way or in a special way, but definitely not writing him a cheque and handing it over because that seems kind of bribey and not really the right message," Morrison explained.
Perhaps he could buy Junio a plane ticket or two as the speedskaters and friends had planned a post-Olympic trip together even before Sochi intertwined their names. The racing season ends with the world all-around championships in the Netherlands in March.
Morrison says they've considered travelling around Europe, "but then Gilmore's family is also from the Philippines. Six months ago he talked about going to the Philippines so I said I would tag along.
"Gilmore and I have always been great friends since we started training together about three or four years ago," Morrison continued. "I think this solidifies our friendship even more and it's something I don't think either one of us will ever forget."
Junio and Morrison demonstrated their standard greeting for each other, which is a high-five with a fist pump they call "The GilMorrison."
Morrison said he almost quit speedskating after the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and Whistler, B.C. He was a strong medal contender in his individual races, but was 13th in the 1,000 and ninth in the 1,500.
Morrison salvaged his Olympics by winning gold in the team pursuit with Regina's Lucas Makowsky and Mathieu Giroux of Pointe-Aux-Trembles, Que.
"Before Vancouver, I knew for sure, 100 per cent I would do another Olympics after Vancouver, but the struggles along the way in Vancouver, even though I won another gold medal at the end almost made it not seem worth it," Morrison explained. "I almost quit."
So he had a message for Toronto figure skater Patrick Chan, who was crushed not to win Canada's first gold medal in men's singles, but took silver instead.
"I read something that Patrick Chan said recently and I know exactly how that guy feels," Morrison said.
"It seems like your world closes in on you sometimes at the Olympics. I just hope that he realizes how proud everyone is of his silver medal. I know it's not what he wanted. It makes it difficult to think about committing to another four years to have that kind of feeling again. That's something that almost made me quit in Vancouver."
Morrison said he'll give track cycling a try as an alternate training method for speedskating. If he continues to 2018, he'll be a four-time Olympian.
"Something is definitely different now than in Vancouver. I can't place my finger on it," Morrison said. "The poise to go out to my Olympic race, it sounds so simple. Just to do what I've been doing for the last four years.
"Before Torino and before Vancouver, I remember going into my 1,000-metre races and thinking 'this is the Olympics. I'm going to do extra and go harder than I've ever gone before. I'm going to push harder. I'm going to win this race.' I was focused on the result rather than the actual process."
"This time, I put all the pieces together and had a great race."