Mending fences

Denny Morrison began making amends Sunday. The long-track speedskater from Fort St. John, B.C., admitted he went too far with his comments questioning the Speed Skating Canada program on Saturday night following a poor race at the Vancouver Olympics.

Denny Morrison

Denny Morrison

RICHMOND, B.C. — Denny Morrison began making amends Sunday.

The long-track speedskater from Fort St. John, B.C., admitted he went too far with his comments questioning the Speed Skating Canada program on Saturday night following a poor race at the Vancouver Olympics.

Morrison called his coach Marcel Lacroix on Sunday morning and later spoke to high performance and Olympic director Brian Rahill to explain that his words didn’t come out as intended.

The Vancouver Games have been a disappointment so far for Morrison, who finished ninth in the men’s 1,500 Saturday following a 13th-place finish in the men’s 1,000 on Wednesday.

During a raw, 9 1-2-minute session with the media after the 1,500, Morrison raised plenty of eyebrows when he questioned his regimen, the decision to bar American Shani Davis from his training group four years ago, and complained about the lack of a competitive skater to push him.

“I feel like I was speaking with a lot of emotion, I was just frustrated after a race obviously,” Morrison said Sunday. “Usually I just debrief my race almost with (the media) and tell you about all the positive things that happened, in these races I was thinking about all these negative things and they go on and on. I was trying to figure it out for myself and make it better for the next time, and it seems I went a step too far.”

Morrison said he read every story he could find and was stunned by how negative he came off, realizing quickly he had some fence-mending to do. The 24-year-old also questioned his desire to skate the team pursuit next Saturday, but now says he’ll be ready for it.

“I’m looking forward to not just being part of that team, but also being a positive leader, making sure we do it up,” he said. “It was tough to want to move on and forget about that race (1,500) and get ready for the team pursuit when I’ve been preparing for that race for a long time.”

One thing Morrison did stand by is his continued desire to resume training with his close friend and rival Davis, something Rahill says was discussed three months ago and would have been “entertained” had Morrison requested it.

Asked if it might be possible in the next quadrennial, Rahill didn’t dismiss the idea, and even the slight possibility it might happen intrigues Morrison.

“I’ve thought about it a lot,” he said.

“I think it would be awesome, not only the training aspect and the technique, but the fact that I enjoy training with him and being around him, he’s got an awesome work ethic, an awesome attitude when he comes to practice.

“If he’s having a crappy day, he still tells himself he’s going to have a good day and skates harder.”

The decision to remove Davis from Lacroix’s training group after the Turin Games was made by Rahill and his staff in order to prevent a foreign athlete from benefiting from Own The Podium funding and discovering any of the team’s Top Secret projects driven by that money.

It might be less complicated over the next four years.

“It would depend on what funding we’re getting, where it’s exactly coming from, is there a Top Secret component to it,” said Rahill. “It would have been difficult (to do it the last four years) in many ways . . . The cautious way to proceed was to not have foreign skaters within our program because it would have been very difficult to manage the secrecy.”

But there may be benefits to bringing Davis back into the fold, particularly for Morrison, who feels he lost his technical point of reference when Davis was barred from training with him. A lack of technical focus is one of the things Morrison pointed to Saturday, when he noted that, “it’s all technique out there.”

“OTP programs, they’re all great, they can give one, or two or five per cent of different things to give you that little advantage, but technique in speedskating is going to give you 50 per cent so, so if I’m doing half as good a job at technique, than I’m losing 25 per cent.”

That prompted OTP head Roger Jackson to defend the program by saying: “I don’t know why he said that because it’s complete nonsense. His coach doesn’t agree with him and nor do we . . . It’s their issue. It’s not our issue.”

And COC president Michael Chambers added: “The sports themselves make the decision with respect to how they will execute those funds in terms of actual preparation and training. Those were not Own The Podium decisions.”

Morrison moved to soothe those waters, too, by praising OTP and disagreeing with a headline that said he blamed the program for his struggles.

“I never really said that at all,” he said.

Earlier in the day, Rahill moved to shift responsibility for Morrison’s struggles back to the athlete by saying he needed “to take accountability” for his performance and actions.

Rahill felt Morrison was likely speaking out of frustration but rejected all his claims in an interview, and said the former world champion’s other concerns were news to him.

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