Speedskater Denny Morrison an Olympian again after motorcycle crash, stroke

Denny Morrison, from British Columbia, skates during the men's 1500-metre race at the Olympic Speed Skating. selections trials. (Jeff McIntosh/CP)

CALGARY — Denny Morrison moved the goalposts on himself.

To make Canada’s Olympic long-track speedskating team in 2018 seemed a longshot after his motorcycle crash in 2015, followed by a stroke less than a year later.

Morrison earning his Olympic berth Saturday at trials had been the goal, but once achieved, the decorated speedskater felt his comeback wasn’t quite complete.

The 32-year-old from Fort St. John, B.C., feels he’s capable of more than just competing in February’s Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

"It’s just different from what you expect when you cross that line," Morrison explained. "I knew that I did what I had to do, but I also knew as I crossed the line I could have had an even better race.

"Maybe that feeling says something about where I’m at and how good it is where I’m at. I feel I’m capable of the results I was capable of before this crapstorm happened."

Morrison finished second behind Vincent de Haitre of Cumberland, Ont., in the men’s 1,500 metres Saturday. Both men booked their berths on the Olympic squad.

De Haitre, 23, was fourth in last year’s world championship and won a World Cup silver in the distance to open this season.

"Going into the Olympic trials, I’m always a little nervous," de Haitre said. "I was glad today I really got to put together a really good race because we’d been working on some stuff in terms of speed.

"These Games is about putting together what I’ve been working on for the last four years and being one of the best."

Morrison won both of Canada’s Olympic long-track medals in 2014 with a silver in the 1,000 metres and bronze in the 1,500. He helped Canada win men’s team pursuit gold in 2010, and silver in 2006.

His motorcycle wreck in May, 2015, in Calgary wiped out an entire season of racing as he recovered from multiple injuries.

His stroke in April the following year while biking in Utah meant he couldn’t push his heart rate to the maximum until a month out from the 2016 fall World Cup trials.

After the most normal off-season of training he’s had since 2014, Morrison helped the men’s pursuit team win World Cup gold Dec. 8 in Salt Lake City, Utah.

He was fifth in the 1,500 there for his best international result since the 2015 world championships.

"Three years ago, if you would have asked me, my goal was to make the Olympics, right?" Morrison said. "I did that and I’m really happy about that.

"But I just feel like, I did it, but I didn’t have the best race I could have, which leaves me inspired to do even more as I head into the Olympic Games. Now the realistic goal is a podium in Korea."

Trials resume Monday at the Olympic Oval with the men’s and women’s 1,000 metres and conclude Tuesday with the men’s 10,000 and women’s 5,000 metres.

Canada can take up to 10 men and 10 women to Pyeongchang to compete in long-track speedskating. The team will be announced Wednesday in Calgary.

Some athletes had already made the Olympic team prior to trials based on podium results in 2017.

World-record holder Ted-Jan Bloemen of Calgary will race the 10k and Ottawa’s Ivanie Blondin the 5k in Pyeongchang. Tuesday’s races will determine Canada’s second skater in each event.

No skater pre-qualified in the 1,500 or 1,000 metres. A top-three result at trials, plus meeting or having met Speed Skating Canada’s time standard, is required in order to be considered for the Olympic team.

Those who already have the time standard under their belts from previous competitions only have to worry about placing in the top three. For others, their Olympic aspirations depend on achieving both in a single race.

Brianne Tutt of Airdrie, Alta., and Regina’s Kali Christ were first and second in the women’s 1,500 metres Friday to book their berths to Pyeongchang. Tutt also qualified in the women’s 3,000.

Blondin was third in the 1,500, but didn’t race under the time standard of one minute 55.35 seconds.

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