Originally published on cbc.ca/sports
Denny Morrison’s return to competitive speed skating has been filled with adulation as well as hardship.
First came a motorcycle crash that destroyed his knee, ruptured his lung, fractured a bone beneath his spine and bruised both his liver and kidney while also leaving him with a concussion in 2015.
Less than a year later, he suffered a stroke following a three-week bike trek in April that now forces the 31-year-old to take blood thinners.
Still, this native of Fort St. John, B.C.,set a personal best of three minutes, 42.21 seconds over 3,000 metres this past Friday at Calgary’s Olympic Oval Fall Classic. But the road to recovery, even for this four-time Olympic medallist continues to be a struggle.
Morrison admits that his motivation along with his mood still fluctuates on a daily basis, after being bed ridden for about a month following his stroke.
“It became a mental struggle to be patient for that long,” Morrison told CBC’s Devin Heroux. “It’s not like a broken leg where you have to take six weeks off because you can’t walk. [It’s hard to return] knowing that an increase in heart rate or blood pressure could ultimately kill…. In many ways it has stopped me from going for it.”
Rediscovering his desire to push has been one of Morrison’s greatest challenges. “It’s such the opposite of what my life has been like for the last decade as a high performance athlete which is very much go, go, go, never quit to being like no, stop.”
But even now, after following his doctor’s carefully devised plan to help him return to the ice, Morrison says he can be “super-negative.” Day-to-day training has, at times, been especially challenging.
“I know I should feel confident, [but even when] I leave the oval feeling good, I’ll come back the next day and go through the same [negative] cycle.
There have been times where if my jacket was closer, I would’ve gotten up and got off the ice, [but that’s when] my teammates really help get me going. That’s the beauty of speed skating; even though it’s an individual event, you’re never out there alone. I just hope that I’m there for my teammates the same way they are there for me.”
While the doubt and insecurity has brought a new mental challenge, Morrison feels equipped to deal with it.
“I’m a big believer in habits. Whether your setback is big or small we all make excuses and if we can catch ourselves and remind ourselves that that’s not a legitimate reason for why we can’t do whatever it is that we want to do.”
However, plenty of work remains if Morrison is to be ready for this season’s upcoming time trials. His knee is still missing an ACL from the motorcycle crash from a year ago.
“It’s certainly a limiting factor and something I need to check with strength and stability work to make sure it’s good to go if I’m to qualify for the world championships, especially in the team pursuit. Which I think will be a great platform for me to get into the fall training season before the 2018 Olympics.”
With files from the Canadian Press