Canada’s Denny Morrison wins first gold at speed skating World Cup

Denny Morrison of Fort St. John, B.C., collected his first career individual victory in World Cup long track speed skating on Friday with a golden performance in the men’s 1,000-metres.

‘’It’s pretty amazing,’’ said Morrison, 21, in his third season on the national team. ‘’We put a program together to peak for this part of the season and I’m so happy I’ve stuck with it.’’

It was a big opening day for Canada at the World Cup final with Christine Nesbitt of London, Ont., and Kristina Groves of Ottawa notching silver and bronze in the women’s 1,000 and Shannon Rempel of Winnipeg placing second in the distance’s overall standings.

In the men’s 1,000, Morrison clocked a Canadian and track record of 1:07.24. That eclipsed the previous national mark of 1:07.70 held by Jeremy Wotherspoon of Red Deer, Alta. Current world record holder Shani Davis of the U.S., was second in 1:07.78 and Yevgeny Lalenkov of Russia was third at 1:07.82. Morrison raced in the 11th of 18 pairs on the day. He watched 14 skaters fail to match his time.

‘’Our coaches said the time had a chance to stand up but I wasn’t so sure,’’ Morrison. ‘’But I didn’t mind waiting it was actually fun. When Shani didn’t match the time (in the second to last pair) I was getting pretty excited. I felt he was the biggest threat.’’

François-Olivier Roberge of St. Nicholas, Que., was 15th, Brock Miron of Calgary 21st, Jeff Kitura of Langley, B.C., 24th and Vincent Labrie of St-Romuald, Que., 26th.

Erben Wennemars of the Netherlands was seventh and it was enough to hold on to take the season title in the distance. Roberge was the top Canadian in ninth overall.

In the women’s 1,000, world champion Ireen Wust of the Netherlands took the gold in 1:13.86. Nesbitt was second in a personal best 1:14.42 and Groves third in 1:14.51.

‘’I’m a little bit surprised to do this well because I usually don’t get strong results in Calgary,’’ said Nesbitt with her fourth medal at the distance this season. ‘’At the start of the week I wasn’t super confident but I progressively felt better in practice. Today I had my fastest opener (first 100 metres) ever and I was able to keep it together until the finish.’’

Cindy Klassen was fifth, Rempel sixth and Brittany Schussler of Winnipeg 15th.

Chiara Simionato of Italy was seventh and took the season title with 672 points followed by Rempel at 529. Rempel posted one victory this season in 10 races at the distance.

In the men’s 500, Mike Ireland of Winnipeg was 12th, Morrison 20th and Miron 22nd. Tucker Fredricks of the U.S., won the race.

In the women’s 500, Rempel was 12th, Kim Weger of Regina 21st, Krisy Myers of Lloydminster, Sask., 26th and Schussler 27th. Beixung Wang of China took the gold and Jenny Wolf of Germany was second to clinch the season title with one race remaining.

Competition continues through to Sunday at the Olympic Oval.