Junio gives up spot, Morrison wins Olympic silver for Canada

Canada's Denny Morrison reacts after competing in the men's 1,000-metre long-track speed skating...

Canada's Denny Morrison reacts after competing in the men's 1,000-metre long-track speed skating race during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, Feb. 12, 2014. (PHIL NOBLE/Reuters)

STEVE SIMMONS, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:40 PM ET

SOCHI, RUSSIA - The latest miracle on ice — the greatest story of these Olympic Games — began with a text message Monday night that caught Denny Morrison completely by surprise.

The message read: “Are you ready for the 1000 metres, yea or nay?”

He wanted to shout ‘yea’ out loud but the message came in on his Russian cell phone and didn’t indicate who sent it.

“I thought someone was pulling my leg,” said the veteran Olympian. “I thought ‘This isn’t funny, if you’re screwing with me.’” Then he took a deep breath and realized what has happening.

He realized his friend, his teammate, now his soulmate for life Gilmore Junio was offering up his speed skating spot in the 1,000m race. One athlete stepping aside so another could succeed.

“He said he was going to Canada House with his family,” Morrison said. “My family was there. We met up. Now that was an Olympic moment.

“This is unbelievable. This is unprecedented. No one in the history of the Olympics have ever given their spot away. And then to have them (the substitute) win a medal. I said ‘Thanks so much man. I’m going to make the most of this.’”

And so he did.

The rest is now part of the folklore of the Games, another one of those magical Olympic stories that grabs you by the heart and pulls you along for the ride. This Canadian story of friendship, sportsmanship and valour, one to be remembered forever.

Morrison, in his third Olympics, with mixed results previously, coming off a broken leg, having fallen in the Olympic trials and not qualified for the event, is now owner of a silver medal after the most astonishing of circumstances Wednesday.

His teammate, Junio, who raced the 500m Monday, finishing 10th, was asked by his personal coach and by the head of the Canadian team, Sean Ireland, to consider giving up his spot to Morrison. There was no pressure. They weren’t forcing him to do anything.

It was purely Junio’s call. And the last thing Junio said to Morrison before the race: “Dude, just go kill it.”

And then Morrison did exactly that.

“I didn’t win a medal today, I say we won a medal today,” said Morrison, understanding the unselfish act that landed him with the opportunity to race, let alone make it to the podium. “Really, I couldn’t believe what was happening. And ending up with a silver medal. That’s a special moment in and of itself.”

In the media zone after the race, Morrison and Junio high-fived each other and then hugged. That picture was worth 1,000 metres and 1,000 words.

“I feel Gilmore went above and beyond,” Morrison said. “He gave up his place for me. I would never have had a medal without him. I feel like getting the medal and cutting it in half because he deserves it.

“He gave away his opportunity for an Olympic medal. I think that encompasses the Olympic spirit and the Canadian spirit.”

Junio wasn’t in favour of cutting the medal in two, but did say he would visit it often.

“He’ll just keep it at his place and I’ll come over and now and then look at it,” said Junio, who has been training with Morrison for four years in Calgary. “The decision for me was so easy. It hasn’t sunk in yet that he is a silver medallist. I was so nervous I couldn’t watch the race.

“This is almost like a movie or a fairy tale. That’s a big part of the Olympics, these kind of stories.”

The kinds of stories you can’t invent that continue to define the Games.

“That’s the spirit of the Olympics,” said Morrison, from Fort St. John, B.C. “That’s the spirit of Canada.”

Morrison raced against 500m champion Michel Mulder of the Netherlands and finished in a time of 1:08.43. Mulder wound up with the bronze medal and his teammate Stefan Groothuis won the gold in a time of 1:08.39.

“The Olympics are a crazy and unique competition,” said Morrison. “You can forget the stats. You can forget who has won the most races in the past. You can throw it all out. Anything can happen.”

And anything did, which will only serve to bring a close Canadian Olympic team that much closer together. This is the first genuinely come-from-nowhere medal of the Olympics for Canada.

“That was awesome,” said Shani Davis, the American star. “It’s so admirable (of Junio). I couldn’t be happier for those guys. It’s really cool to know people like that.”

The medal won’t be presented until Thursday. Now all Morrison has to figure out is a way to pay Junio back.

“I don’t want to make it about money,” he said. “But I should at least buy him a beer.”



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