SPORTS

Denny Morrison motivated by addition of Dutch skater to Canadian team

03/06/2015 07:00 EST | Updated 05/06/2015 05:59 EDT
CALGARY - Veteran speed skater Denny Morrison says he's finding inspiration this season through his friendly rivalry with new teammate Ted-Jan Bloemen.

The 29-year-old from Fort St. John, B.C., will compete for Canada at the ISU world allround championships on Saturday and Sunday at the Olympic Oval along with Bloemen, who recently relocated to Calgary from his home in the Netherlands.

"We compete to be the top Canadian and compete in a positive way where we can help each other to strive to a new level," said Morrison, who teamed up with Bloemen and Jordan Belchos of Markham, Ont. to win silver in the men's team pursuit at last month's ISU world single distance championships in Heerenveen, Netherlands. "I think it's really cool to have him as a really strong teammate."

Although Bloemen, 28, was born in Leiderdorp, Netherlands, he also has Canadian citizenship because his father hails from Bathurst, New Brunswick.

"Coming to Canada was a no-brainer for me," said Bloemen, who represented the Netherlands at the world allround championships twice previously, finishing fourth overall in 2010 in Heerenveen. "My dad was born here. I've been here a couple times on vacation and for races. I always loved it here."

Back in the Netherlands, Bloemen tried for the past decade to find a team that suited his style.

"There are so many teams and it's so competitive," he said. "Teams appear to be changing their minds about who they want on their team all the time, so I'd find myself in a totally different situation every year and that was just not working for me. I found myself stuck at this level and not really getting better anymore, so I decided it was time for a change."

Both he and Morrison also have the same coach in Bart Schouten, who will be honoured during a break in competition on Sunday with a Petro Canada Coaching Excellence Award.

"He's a really good coach," Bloemen said. "I didn't know anything about him actually before I came here. It was kind of an adventure and I didn't know what to expect really, but it all turned out to be really good. I feel really good training with this program."

Schouten has liked the training dynamic that Morrison and Bloemen have formed in their first year together as teammates.

"I really think Denny can push Ted in speed work and Ted can push Denny in endurance work, so they really complement each other's strengths and they really help each other," said Schouten, who believes both have what it takes to finish in the top eight this weekend.

To do that, Morrison and Bloemen will have to skate well in both the 500-metre event and 5,000 on Saturday as well as the 1,500 on Sunday to be among the eight qualifiers for the 10,000 later that same afternoon.

"If my races are at least medium that I should qualify for that, but I'm actually hoping for some personal bests in hopefully more than one race, but specifically the 5,000 metres," said Morrison, who also won silver in the men's 1,500 at the world single distance championships to give him the ninth individual medal of his career at the event to go with his four Olympic medals.

The allround championships will feature 24 female and 24 male skaters from 18 countries. Koen Verweij and Ireen Wust of the Netherlands are the defending men's and women's champions, respectively.

While Morrison and Bloemen will compete in the men's races, Ottawa's Ivanie Blondin and Regina's Kali Christ will represent Canada in the women's races.

The women will start out with the 500 and 3,000 on Saturday followed by the 1,500 on Sunday. The top eight competitors will then advance to the 5,000, which will determine the medal winners.

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