The Sochi Network

Team-mate’s incredible sacrifice inspires silver medal

Denny Morrison did Canada proud on Wednesday when claiming silver in the men’s 1000m speedskating, but he was only competing thanks to a remarkable and surely unprecedented turn of events.

Morrison initially failed to qualify for Canada’s Olympic team when he suffered heartbreak in falling at the final turn at the country’s national trials.

However, in an incredible gesture which perfectly embodies the Olympic spirit, team-mate Gilmore Junio unexpectedly gave up his spot in the 1000m just one day before competition began.

“I was in disbelief, I still basically am,” said Morrison after putting his medal around his shoulders. “It’s a dream. A fairytale story. And it’s hard to believe that it’s happening.

“The only thing that could have made it better was five-hundredths of a second. But I’m pretty satisfied with silver, to be honest.”

It turns out that Junio - a true Olympic hero if ever there was one - decided to curtail his own ambitions of gold medal glory as he felt Morrison was better equipped to challenge – a remarkably selfless, and very rare attitude in modern sport.

“Denny and I are made of the same fabric – we both want to win and represent our country at a level that reflects that passion,” said Junio on Tuesday as he explained his decision.

“How Denny is skating now, I believe it’s in the best interest of the team if he races. To represent Canada at the Olympics is a huge honour and privilege but I believe that as Canadians, we’re not just here to compete; we are here to win.

“Denny has proven to be a consistent medal threat in the distance.”

Junio was rewarded for his unbelievable decision when Morrison claimed silver in Sochi on Wednesday evening for the third Olympic medal of his career.

But there’s no way his medals in Turin in 2006 and Vancouver in 2010 would have carried the same significance as this one – thanks to a remarkably generous colleague.

And as Morrison explained after his silver-medal winning run, he himself struggled to believe Junio would do such a thing.

“I didn’t really know who it was from,” he said of a text message he received on his Sochi phone.

“It said a random Russian number: ‘Hey, you ready for the 1,000? You can have my spot if you want’.

“I was like, ‘is someone pulling my leg here? Because this isn’t funny if you’re screwing with me.’”

“That was an Olympic moment; special in and of itself.”