- Men's 1500m
Speedskater's grand gesture ends in silver medal
SOCHI, Russia — The only thing Denny Morrison and Gilmore Junio can't seem to agree upon is which of the two speed skaters should carry the Canadian flag at the Sochi Games' closing ceremony — each one thinks the other, and neither seems willing to budge an inch from their position.
Junio thinks Morrison, one of Canada's biggest stars of the Games, should be the country's flag-bearer for taking home two medals in speed skating, silver in the 1000m and bronze in the 1500m.
Morrison, in turn, casts his vote for Junio for a simple reason: that medal in the 1000m — the first of the two, and then the third of his Olympic career — would not have been possible without his teammate's sacrifice.
Morrison's entry in Wednesday's 1000m was secured only after Junio made a gesture of Olympic proportions. He simply ceded to Morrison his spot in the race, giving his teammate, whose crash in the qualifying event during Canada's Olympic trials cost him an automatic slot, an opportunity to compete for a medal.
If a gesture made partly in the team's best interests — Morrison ranked among the world's best in the 1000m, Junio outside the top 40 — it's one that has resonated throughout Sochi and beyond as emblematic of the Olympic ideal.
In the Canadian media, the switch has earned an official title: The Gesture. It's also given birth to a Twitter hashtag, "#GilForFlagBearer," and a Facebook page supporting Junio's case for flag-bearer duties for embodying "the spirit of the Olympics."
If amazed by how his decision has boomed through the Sochi Games, Junio called it a "no-brainer."
"I saw (Morrison) skating in training camp before the Games," he said. "He was keeping up to me in all the starts, so I know he was getting some good speed."
Junio formulated the plan in December, after Morrison crashed near the end of the 1000m at the Olympic trials, and didn't revisit it until the days before Wednesday's race, after what Junio called a "disappointing" 10th-place finish in the men's 500m.
Like a true Canadian, perhaps — and one who focused on hockey until his teenage years — Junio, a Calgary native, equated the move with a team getting its best player on the ice.
"I view it like a line change," Junio said. "That big faceoff, when you want your best faceoff man at the circle. That's the simplest way I can put it."
Fittingly, this grand gesture resulted in an Olympic medal. Morrison finished four-tenths of a second behind Netherlands' Stefan Groothuis in the 1000m, earning his first individual medal after medaling in the team pursuit event in 2006 and 2010.
"That made the story even more beautiful," Canada coach Bart Schouten said. "The silver lining is the silver medal."
It's also an act that has continued to pay off for Canada's speed skating efforts. Morrison said Sunday that his medal in the 1500m would not have been possible with the mental boost of confidence that stemmed from his finish in the 1000m.
Said Schouten, "It is the epitome of people working together and teamwork. It's hard to describe in words. It's like … it's incredible."
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