Gilmore Junio courtesy olympics.cbc.ca.
Olympian speed skater Denny Morrison was puzzled by the text he received on Monday night. The unrecognizable Russian number said: "Hey, you ready for the 1000? You can have my spot if you want." Denny didn't know what to make of it. He had to hear it for himself. So he hopped on his bike and raced to Canada Olympic House to meet with the sender of the mysterious text.
Fellow speed skater Gilmore Junio confirmed what the 28-year-old Denny had suspected. He was offering his spot in the 1000 metre race. At the trials in December a twist of fate had led to Denny falling right before the finish line in a race that he would have won. Given that Denny was a veteran and had been skating so well in recent weeks, Junio thought he would be the better choice. Denny wasted no time in graciously saying yes. As he raced back to his room, his adrenaline was pumping so hard he could have slipped on his skates and raced right there and then. But he put on some calming music and focused for the task ahead.
Denny's previous experience came into play: he had won silver in Torino eight years ago and gold in the team pursuit four years ago. Known for his strong finish, Denny's weakness had been his start. Ironically, it was Gilmore, a 500 m specialist, who had worked with Denny on improving his start.
On race day, Denny faced off against Dutch speed skater Michel Mulder. He was on fire as he took off down the ice at the Adler Arena. The two skaters were neck and neck. But Denny had his strong finish and he beat Michel by the smallest of margins (1:08:43 versus 1:08: 74). Michel won the bronze, Denny the silver and Groothuis the gold (1:08:39). Denny literally leaped onto the podium to receive his silver medal, sandwiched between two Dutchmen. In fact, he is the only non-Dutchman long track speed skater to win a medal in Sochi to date.
In the meantime, Denny's hometown in British Columbia held a public skate in his honour. Speed Skating Canada is pushing for Gilmore to be the flag bearer for Canada at the closing ceremonies, given his selfless decision of Monday night. His mysterious text made Denny's dream come true.
Denny Morrison at flower ceremony in Sochi courtesy www.ctvnews.ca.