Morrison set to qualify for Olympics

Fort St. John speed skater Denny Morrison is finished his World Cup circuit for now and will attempt to make the Canadian men's national speed skating team this weekend in Calgary.

The Intact 2014 Speed Skating Team Selections run Dec. 28 to Jan. 3 at the Olympic Oval in Calgary, and Morrison is going to try to qualify for the Olympics in the 500, 1,000 and 1,500 m races.

"I think my chances are pretty good," Morrison said about qualifying from Calgary. "I've still been the top Canadian in every 1,500 m race at the World Cup, and I'm actually feeling better now than I was in the World Cups."

"I don't want to say that I'm on the team until I'm actually qualified and they've announced it, but I'm feeling pretty confident that I'll be able to qualify for the Olympics in the 1,000 and the 1,500 m. I'll also be attempting the 500 m."

Morrison's run in his last four World Cup events varied over the past couple of months, with his top finish fourth place and his worst finish in last place in World Cup #4 in Berlin.

He admits he would've liked to have performed better, but says he's feeling better on the ice now than he's felt all season.

"I would've liked to have stepped onto the podium once," he said about his World Cup performances. "I guess my ego wants me up there, but in hindsight it's not a bad spot to be in. I'm not in the spotlight, I don't have the attention of the other skaters, I don't have any real expectations and no one's thinking I'm going to be a huge threat."

"But I'm still looking at myself thinking I'm a huge threat," he added. "I had a couple fourth-place finishes and a fifth-place finish, so I'm right there. I know I have some improvements to do but I'm already feeling better on the ice now."

This will be the first Olympics that Morrison didn't pre-qualify for in any particular distance heading into the Canadian Olympic qualifier, but he says that he expects to thrive off of that added pressure this weekend.

"In Turino and Vancouver I was pre-qualified in the 1,500 and the team pursuit, so I already knew I was going and just had to qualify for the 1,000," he said.

"This year I'm not pre-qualified in anything, so it adds a bit more pressure and nervousness, and maybe a bit more fear, but I think it's good to have to test myself, to have a good race when it counts because that's how the Olympics are. I'm feeling pretty good about it."

In order to qualify for the Canadian men's team, Morrison says he has to have top times relative to the world record in his distances. There are only eight spots available for the men's team, but Morrison is confident he'll qualify for one of them this weekend.

Leading up to the qualifier, Morrison has decreased his training but increased intensity and speed. He enjoyed his time off at Christmas and also shot an Olympic commercial for Visa, which he's excited about.

In the commercial, Morrison got to do a voiceover line with four other Olympians, plus do a scene where he races numerous Denny Morrisons.

"I thought that was pretty cool," he said. "I got to do a voiceover with four other [Olympic] athletes, and Morgan Freeman does one at the end, so it's kind of neat to say I'm in a commercial doing a voiceover with Morgan Freeman."

Visa has recently signed on as a sponsor for Morrison, and he's hoping to entice them to extend their sponsorship with a good performance this weekend and hopefully at the Olympics.

When asked if he was nervous about the qualifier, Morrison laughed.

"Maybe partly," he said, "But it's an excited nervousness."

Morrison's first qualifying race will be the 500 m on Saturday, then he will compete in the 1,000 m on Monday, Dec. 30 and the 1,500 on Thursday, Jan. 2.

The Intact Insurance 2014 Speed Skating Team Selections wraps up Friday, Jan. 3.

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