Denny Morrison wins gold, Groves finishes with five medals, Hughes on podium at speed skating worlds

NAGANO, Japan – Denny Morrison of Fort St. John, B.C., won gold in the men’s 1,500 and Kristina Groves of Ottawa stepped on the podium two more times Sunday to finish with five medals at the world single distance championships in long track speed skating.

Clara Hughes of Glen Sutton, Que., also took silver in the women’s 5,000. Canada ended the competition with nine medals – three of each colour equalling its best ever total from last year.

In the men’s 1,500, Morrison was the winner in 1:45.22. It was his first career international victory at the distance. His pair Sven Kramer of the Netherlands and Shani Davis of the U.S., tied for second in 1:45.32.

‘’It’s pretty cool to be world champion,’’ said Morrison, also third in Saturday’s 1,000. ‘’It’s a different feeling. The key to my win was having a really good strategy. I had a great start and tried to fix what I didn’t do well in the 1,000. I had a smooth race and I was able to hold my pair off at the end.’’

There were still two pairs to go after Morrison’s race. Davis, the 1,000 winner, was in the next pair.

‘’I knew I had skated a really great time,’’ Morrison said. ‘’I was very happy with it. But when I saw Shani go out I thought he was going to get me. But for some reason his last lap just wasn’t there today. I was pretty confident I was going to win after that. I thought Shani was the biggest threat.’’

Steven Elm of Red Deer, Alta., was eighth and Arne Dankers of Calgary 13th.

Groves completed Canada’s best ever individual performance at the worlds with a silver in the 1,000 and a bronze in the 5,000. She also took gold this week in the 3,000, helped Canada to silver in the pursuit and won bronze in the 1,500. She now has 10 career medals at these championships.

‘’It was really awesome,’’ said Groves. ‘’I felt like every time I went out to race I had this total clarity and focus that let me get into the race right away. I executed the way I knew I could. It was an awesome feeling.’’

In the women’s 5,000, Martina Sablikova of the Czech Republic took the gold in 6:58.22, Hughes followed in 7:04.79 and Groves was third in 7:04.94. Christine Nesbitt of London, Ont., was 12th.

‘’I just felt so much motivation from the whole team, we did so great,’’ said Hughes, who has medalled in the event at four of the past five worlds. ‘’But this medal didn’t come easy. It’s a good lesson in that when you don’t feel great going in you have to fight and not give up. That’s what got me the silver medal today.’’

In the women’s 1,000, Anni Friesinger of Germany was first in 1:15.37, Groves followed in 1:16.01 and Annette Gerritsen of the Netherlands was third in 1:16.35. It was the same 1-2-3 finish as last year. Nesbitt was fourth in 1:16.44 and Shannon Rempel of Winnipeg seventh.

‘’I had my best start in the 1,000 in a long time,’’ said Groves. ‘’The start is something that has been frustrating for me this year and it had been keeping me out of the race. The work I put into it this week really helped.’’

In the men’s 3,200-metre pursuit the Netherlands took the gold. Canada was fourth with Morrison, Dankers and Elm.

The Dutch finished atop the medal standings with four gold, three silver and four bronze, followed by Canada and Germany at 3-1-3.