The Edge
4:34 pm
Wed February 12, 2014

Substitute Racer Takes Olympic Silver In Sochi

Originally published on Wed February 12, 2014 6:31 pm

Olympic athletes often endure weeks of anticipation as pressure builds toward their moment on the global stage. That wasn't a problem for Canadian Denny Morrison, who got his spot in the speedskating finals just one day ahead of the race. Now he has a silver medal.

Many Americans were following the race mainly because American speedskating superstar Shani Davis failed to get a medal in the 1,000-meter race. He finished in eighth place.

But as NPR's Tamara Keith reports, many people are now talking about Morrison — who wasn't even supposed to be in the competition when these Olympics began.

From Tamara's report for our Newscast unit:

"This is one of those great Olympic stories. Gilmore Junio was scheduled to skate for Team Canada in the 1,000-meter race. Then, a day before the race, he offered his spot to teammate Denny Morrison.

"Junio said that giving up his spot was in the best interest of the team because Morrison was more of a medal threat, and Canadians are 'not just here to compete, we are here to win.'

"And it turns out he was right. Morrison captured the silver medal and is now a three-time Olympic medalist."

This is Morrison's first individual medal; his others came in team events at the last two Olympics.

This is Junio's first Winter Olympics. And while the 23-year-old has said that "it was a no-brainer for Denny to be in this distance," the Toronto Star reports that Team Canada's coaching staff gave Junio the idea that he might offer his slot to Morrison, who has twice won silver in the 1,000-meter event at the world championships.

Junio says his parents raised him to be a team player. And he acknowledged that Morrison hit some bad luck during the qualifying event for Sochi.

From the Star:

"Back in December at the Olympic trials, Morrison was 50 metres away from qualifying for the Games when he clipped a skate and fell. He was granted a same-day re-skate, but with his depleted energy stores he couldn't produce a top-four time.

" 'Denny probably would have beat me in that race had he not fallen,' said Junio, who finished third in those trials."

After the decision was announced Tuesday, Morrison told the CBC, "Gil is a great teammate. He told me that he wanted me to race. This is an amazing gesture, and I'm ready to make the most of this opportunity."

If he is to have a chance for an Olympic medal of his own, Junio will have to wait four more years. In the 500-meter race, his only other event in Sochi, he finished 10th.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.