Why Fil-Canadian speedskater gave up Olympic spot

Posted at 02/17/14 10:43 AM

Canada's Gilmore Junio skates during the men's 500 meters speed skating race during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. Photo by Phil Noble, Reuters

SOCHI -- Canadian speedskater Denny Morrison praised his teammate Gilmore Junio on Sunday for giving up his place in the men's 1,000-meter race, which Morrison took to win the silver.

Morrison followed the silver with a bronze in the men's 1,500 on Saturday (February 15).

The British Columbia native captured gold and silver medals in the last two Olympics as part of team Canada, but an individual medal had so far eluded him.

Fil-Canadian Junio's surrendered spot, he said, helped him medal twice at Sochi.

"That 1,000-meter gave me the confidence going into the 1,500-meter, that I could do my race fine and I could go out really fast, really hard and hang on to the end. The 1,500-meter is one of the most scary races, because I did that in Vancouver - didn't hang on at the end and got ninth. So you have these little flashes of that memory in your head and definitely coming down 50 meters to go in the last straight-away, I was wondering, 'I don't know how much speed I'm losing here' and to look up and cross the line and realize that my fitness and my training and maybe that little extra confidence I got from the 1,000-meter really helped me get that result. It was the best feeling in the world," Morrison told reporters at a news conference.

Junio said the best chance of ending Dutch domination of the men's speed skating medals in Sochi was to sit out the 1,000 metres and send in training partner Morrison instead.

"It was such a simple decision for me. You know, it was about, you know, giving Canada a chance to win a medal and he had unfortunate circumstances at trials and I was the benefactor of that, you know. I was talking to my coach the other day and we were talking about all the media and stuff like that. It's just - it almost doesn't seem like I deserve it, because it was just such a simple decision to have Denny race, and... You know, I'll hopefully get my chance, come the next Games. But, you know, hopefully we've got a couple of more years training together so that, you know, we'll be stronger than ever," Junio said.

Morrison became the first non-Dutchman to win a speed skating medal in Sochi when he bagged silver at the Adler Arena on Wednesday.

Morrison said Junio should hoist the Canadian flag at the closing ceremony for his selfless actions.

"This guy instills all the values that represent, represents all the values that it is to be a Canadian. And especially the Olympic pride, Canadian pride. So I don't think there's a better candidate (to carry the Canadian flag at the closing ceremony) than Gilmore. And I think it's extra cool that just the fact that he didn't win a medal but showed such sportsmanship," he said.

The 28-year-old Morrison said Junio's gesture made him want to race in another Olympics, but he was not sure whether he could focus solely on the ice.

"I, honestly, I don't know if I can commit to four years of just speedskating, but definitely gonna do some alternate training, such as cycling and then probably see if I can come back and make a run for Korea," Morrison said, speaking of the 2018 Winter Olympics scheduled for PyeongChang, South Korea.

Morrison's victory at Sochi was somewhat of a surprise, as he spent much of 2013 recovering from a broken leg and then injuries associated with it.