Should Morrison be on speed-skating relay team?

Should Morrison be on speed-skating relay team?

By PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency


After Denny Morrison's two poor races at the Vancouver Olympics, the debate has begun over whether he should be a part of Canada's speed skating team pursuit squad. (QMI Agency file photo)

RICHMOND, B.C. — Call it demons, or the Morrison Meltdown, whatever you want.

But at this point, you have to wonder if it’s healthy to keep Denny Morrison on the Canadian men’s speed-skating team for the upcoming pursuit event.

The men’s team desperately needs a podium finish to salvage something from these Games.

But the way Morrison reacted after his last-lap collapse in Saturday’s 1,500 metres raises some serious questions about where his head is at.

The 24-year-old from Fort St. John, B.C., was so bewildered he began questioning everything: His coach, his program, his teammates — even his own mindset.

Asked how long he’d need to recover psychologically, he answered: “I can give you the answer my sports psychologist would like me to tell you. Or I could give you the answer I really feel.”

Yikes.

This has been a disastrous Games for Morrison, a man who had some demons to slay after a disappointing Olympic debut in Turin.

He could do no better than ninth in the 1,500 and 13th in the 1,000 at the Richmond Oval, far off what you’d expect from someone who’s won medals at the last two World Championships.

“It’s not always as simple as forgetting about a race,” Morrison said. “I’ve been preparing for it for, literally, four years.”

That preparation is what Morrison questioned in the hours after Saturday’s race, stirring up a hornet’s nest in the halls of Speed Skating Canada.

“For some reason, that’s something I’ve lost for the last 12 or 15 months,” Morrison said of his late-race fade. “Something with my training program — I don’t want to point fingers again. I just couldn’t do it.”

Morrison’s coach, Marcel Lacroix, pointed out his program is the same one that got Morrison on the podium at the last two worlds.

Morrison’s finger wasn’t finished.

He lamented Speed Skating Canada’s decision four years ago to separate him from his friend and training partner, American star Shani Davis. Canadian officials decided Own the Podium money should only benefit Canadians, so Davis was forced to leave Calgary.

“I noticed it the first year we didn’t train together,” Morrison said. “Now it’s like I have to do these programs basically on my own. I have to push myself.”

Over to you, Brian Rahill, Speed Skating Canada’s Olympic program director, who took responsibility for the call on Davis.

“I’m still very comfortable with it,” Rahill said. “Denny’s had kind of an up-and-down year, and a little bit more down than up. We’re definitely disappointed. Hopefully the guys can regroup for the men’s team pursuit, and skate the way we know they can.”

Which brings us to this: Morrison revealed he’s been simmering over the selection of the men’s team.

“There’s things about the team pursuit that I’m mad about, too,” he began. “Not the two guys I’m skating with. But I’m kind of sad that a guy like Steve Elm isn’t on our team. We could use him. It would give us a better shot at a medal. But I don’t make the rules.”

Saying Elm would give the team a better shot at a medal is a shot at teammates Lucas Makowsky and Mathieu Giroux, whether Morrison agrees or not.

How that plays out as the threesome prepares for Friday’s opening of the team pursuit remains to be seen.

“We can’t sit and wonder if it’s going to impact us,” coach Lacroix said. “His only chance is the team pursuit medal. You can sit and cry, or you can get up and say, ‘I still have a shot.’ ”

Morrison’s choice will become obvious soon enough.

paul.friesen@sunmedia.ca

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