Morrison, Junio riding high on Canadian Olympic spirit 0
Canadian long-track speed skaters Denny Morrison (left) Gilmore Junio during a press conference at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Feb. 16, 2014. (AL CHAREST/QMI Agency)
As Gilmore Junio walked on to the stage inside Chekhov Hall at the main media centre Sunday, Denny Morrison walked over and pulled out a chair for his teammate.
“I had to do that,” Morrison said with a laugh.
Four days after the gesture that touched the hearts of Canadians and sports fans around the world, Junio and Morrison are still making the rounds, speaking about Junio’s decision on Feb. 12 to give up his spot in the long-track speed skating 1,000-metres competition so his teammate could race. Morrison won the silver medal in the event, and then a bronze three days later in the 1,500.
The reaction back in Canada to The Gesture was overwhelmingly positive, though there have been some naysayers — those who have suggested Junio was wrong to give up the spot he had earned at the Canadian trials, never mind that Junio had raced in the 500 earlier in Sochi (his best event) and, at 23, likely has at least one more Olympics in him.
“Well, I have read a few polls and stuff from people who think Gilmore should be flagbearer or not and it’s, like, 99% (in support),” said Morrison, 28. “I think people know what the story here really is. And the people who are writing stories that are alternate to that, I think they’re just trying to get their own little bit of attention out of it. So I just block them on Twitter and don’t read it.”
Junio and Morrison will forever be linked in Olympic and Canadian sporting folklore. And as to a nod to their special bond, the Calgary skaters invented a special high-five greeting called ‘The Gilmorrison,’ which they unveiled for the media Sunday.
Their story is still reverberating throughout the Sochi Olympics (there were some American journalists catching up to it Sunday), and there’s been a growing movement of officials, athletes and media types who believe Junio should carry the flag for Canada in the closing ceremonies next Sunday — something Morrison endorses, though Junio sees it the other way.
“It would be a huge honour, but I started last night (a Twitter campaign for Morrison as flag bearer) because the guy’s ripping it up on the track,” Junio said. “I think he deserves it more than I do.
“Honestly, I think Gilmore for flag bearer,” added Morrison. “I think it would be really special. This guy instils all the values that represent all the values that it is to be Canadian, especially Olympic pride. I don’t think there’s a better candidate than Gilmore. I think it’s extra cool. He didn’t win a medal, but what he did shows such sportsmanship.”
Morrison won gold at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics in the team pursuit and a silver in the same event four years earlier in Turin, but suffered a broken leg and other major injuries last year and only qualified as an alternative for the 1,000. here after clipping his heel at the Canadian trials in December.
Junio, who started off as a hockey player before switching over to short track where he fractured two vertebrae in an accident in 2009 before finally giving long track a try, thought about giving his Sochi spot back to Morrison back then.
The laid-back skater is still shocked that anyone would consider that decision a big deal.
“It was a no-brainer,” said Junio, the son of Filipino immigrants who came to Canada in the 1970s for a better life.
“You want your best faceoff man in the circle. That’s the way I view it. And that’s the simplest way I can put it. I have that hockey mentality in me.”