Morrison wins gold in 1,500 metres

Morrison wins gold in 1,500 metres at World Single Distances Championships
Klassen was sixth in the 3,000 metres

Photo by Martin de Jong
AUDIO FILES (MP3): Garrido, Giroux, Klassen, Makowsky, Morrison, Schussler, Schouten (coach)

HEERENVEEN, Netherlands – Canadian Denny Morrison won gold today in the 1,500 metres in a time of one minute and 46.44 seconds at the ISU World Single Distances Speed Skating Championships in Heerenveen, the Netherlands. Cindy Klassen was Canada’s top woman today placing sixth in the 3,000 metres.

Despite appearing to be hampered by American Shani Davis on the first crossing of their pair, Morrison won his first international race of the season. The 26-year-old beat Russian Ivan Skobrev (1:46.49), who took the silver medal, and World Cup 1,500-metre champion Havard Bokko of Norway, who had bronze (1:46.50).

“I had a great opener, probably the fastest opener I've ever done, actually,” said the native of Fort St. John, B.C., who did win two silver medals and a bronze of the 2011-12 World Cup circuit. “I really attacked the first turn of the first lap trying to get the draft from Shani. I almost went faster than I was even expecting and I came up right behind him. But I kept skating and building on every turn.

Morrison commented on the first-turn incident with Davis. “No, he got over right away and was out of the way,” insisted Morrison. “I was trying to get as close to him as possible. I was wanting to great into stride with him. He wasn't in my way at all.

“I think it’s my first win in an individual race in Heerenveen,” noted Morrison. “It's awesome. I guess that curse is done with and I'll win here more often.”

Bart Schouten, one of Morrison’s coaches, was impressed with the win. “Denny skated an awesome race,” said Schouten, who is joined by Mike Crowe in coaching Morrison. “He's grown a lot this year. He's changed his mentality. He's really been tough this year with not making the same mistakes. Mentally he's been really tough on himself.

“There have been a couple of instances on the ice that we could pinpoint to – this is where Denny changed his mentality, where he stepped it up,” noted Schouten. “He's done a good job of mentally growing towards being a better skater.”

The native of Fort St. John, B.C., was sixth in the 1,500 metres at last year’s World Single Distances Championships in Inzell, Germany, but he won the distance in Nagano, Japan, in 2008 and skated to a bronze medal in Richmond, B.C., in 2009.

Other Canadians in the 1,500 metres saw Mathieu Giroux, Pointe-aux-Trembles, Que., place 13th (1:47.64) and Regina’s Lucas Makowsky rank 19th (1:48.45). Both Giroux and Makowsky are coached by Xiuli Wang and Mark Wild.

In women's 3000m, Klassen had a sixth place finish in a time of four minutes and 7.14 seconds, Brittany Schussler was tied for eighth (4:09.53) and Edmonton’s Nicole Garrido was 22nd (4:20.13). Klassen and Schussler, coached by Wang and Wild, are from Winnipeg.

On Friday, the men will skate the 1,000 and 5,000 metres, and the 1,500 metres for the women. The women have two races on Saturday, the 1,000- and 5,000-metre distances, and the men have one race, the 10,000 metres. The season wraps-up on Sunday with the two 500-metre races and team pursuit.

Team and athlete information is available in this team guide (PDF).