Canada finishes behind Poland in team pursuit, narrowly missing out on bronze
Speedskaters from Canada, left to right, Denny Morrison, Mathieu Giroux and Lucas Makowsky skate to take a fourth place in the men's team pursuit race against Poland at the Adler Arena Skating Center at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP / Matt Dunham)
The Canadian Press
Published Saturday, February 22, 2014 10:23AM EST
Last Updated Saturday, February 22, 2014 12:43PM EST
SOCHI, Russia -- Denny Morrison and his Canadian teammates didn't have the legs when they needed them, missing out on a bronze medal in long-track speedskating's team pursuit.
The Canadians -- Morrison, Mathieu Giroux of Pointe-Aux-Trembles, Que., and Lucas Makowsky of Regina -- were the defending Olympic champions, but faded over the final two laps Saturday to finish fourth behind Poland at the Sochi Olympics.
The Canadians usually used Morrison's top-end speed to put some distance between themselves and their opponents, then hold on until the end.
"Today I had a little bit of trouble hanging on so we lost some speed," Morrison said, as Giroux fought back tears.
Canada led for all but the last two laps of the eight-lap race, fading to finish in three minutes 44.27 seconds. Poland crossed in 3:41.94 for bronze.
The mighty Netherlands won gold for its 22nd speedskating medal in Sochi, beating South Korea.
Ottawa's Ivanie Blondin, Regina's Kali Christ and Winnipeg's Brittany Schussler finished fifth in the women's team pursuit after beating the United States in the C Final.
Canadian coach Bart Schouten believed Saturday's loss might have been partly a product of Morrison's success earlier in the Games. The 28-year-old from Fort St. John, B.C., had already captured two medals, a silver in the 1,000 metres and bronze in the 1,500.
"We didn't have the legs, and Denny, he's had a very good Olympics, and managing those highs and all the ceremonies that come with it cost a lot of energy," Schouten said. "I think he's done really well with that, but at some point energy might run a little bit lower."
The Canadians also were gunning for gold and so gave it their all a night earlier in their semifinal loss to South Korea. Poland, the Canadians contended, were happy to skate for bronze and so took it easy in their semifinal knowing they couldn't beat the powerful Dutch.
"We showed our Canadian pride, our Canadian spirit," Morrison said. "Going into that semifinal that we had against (South) Korea, they're the No. 2 ranked team in the world, we knew they were going to have a good time, and we put down our very best race.
"We couldn't beat them but we can hold our heads high knowing that we tried to go for the gold."
Schouten said, while Poland's strategy to coast in the semifinal might have helped that team Saturday, he would never take that approach with a Canadian squad.
"You're here, you show up, you give it all you can," the coach said. "The Canadian guys skated their hearts out, even though they knew it would be very tough against the Koreans.
"But you don't go to the Games to give up. You don't go to the Games to give away a race. You just don't do that, That's not the Canadian mentality."
Morrison is tied with the great Gaetan Boucher for most Olympic speedskating medals won by a male with four, so a bronze Saturday would've made him the undisputed leader.
"I can be really proud of that," Morrison said. "The team pursuit never existed when he was around, so it's a little bit of a weird comparision, but maybe there will be other events in the future where other people will be medalling in those and they can catch up to me and Gaetan."
Morrison's two medals were Canada's only podium performances in long-track speedskating. The country won five long-track medals four years ago in Vancouver -- two gold, a silver, and two bronze.