CALGARY — Denny Morrison was back on the ice less than six months after a motorcycle accident put the Canadian speedskater in hospital, broken and bashed from his head to his knees.
The Olympic multi-medallist in long track might not race this season. But Morrison in his skates and training already indicates he may recover his speed and form in time for the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
"Anybody else probably would have died in that accident, so he's been very tough and resilient because he's so fit,'' his coach Bart Schouten said this week. "He also heals faster than anybody we know.''
Morrison's motorcycle struck a left-turning Toyota Corolla in northwest Calgary and knocked the car on its side May 7. The two people in the car did not require hospitalization. Morrison was issued a traffic ticket for failing to yield to a yellow light, which is a fine of $155.
His many injuries threatened to end a career that includes four Olympic and a dozen world championship medals.
Along with a broken right leg, Morrison suffered a concussion, a punctured lung, a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee, bruised liver and kidneys and a small fracture in a bone near his spine.
Given the wreck he was a few months ago, Morrison's stride seemed remarkably smooth and strong during Monday's training session with the men's pursuit team at the Olympic Oval.
But still in front of him are many small, hard-won improvements he must achieve to be among the world's fastest skaters again.
"It's a long comeback trail,'' Morrison cautioned.
"I know what I can improve and I know I can improve it and I know I'm going to go faster. At the same time, being patient is the difficult part now.
"Just because you're a fast healer doesn't mean you can become arrogant about it and not do your due diligence in healing the right way and not rushing into things.''
The 30-year-old from Fort St. John, B.C., needs to gain power and confidence in his right leg as it crosses over his left in the turns.
"It's the stabilizers that are missing that add that extra confidence to quickly do a crossover and step down,'' Morrison explained. "Getting that confidence back is a matter of getting the strength back is matter of getting stabilizers back.''
Morrison won both of Canada's long-track speedskating medals at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, despite breaking a bone in his left leg while skiing just 14 months prior.
Morrison fell in the 1,000 metres at national trials, but teammate Gilmore Junio vacated his spot in the distance so Morrison could race it in Sochi.
Morrison won silver and Junio ascended to folk-hero status in Canada because of his selflessness. Morrison put an exclamation mark on Canada's feel-good story in Sochi with a bronze in the 1,500 metres.
Morrison also helped the men's pursuit team win gold at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and Whistler, B.C. The most decorated skater currently on the national long-track team also owns a pursuit silver from 2006.
A few weeks before the motorcycle accident, Morrison took silver in the 1,500, bronze in the 1,000 and was a member of the men's pursuit team that earned silver at the world single distance championships.
Lying in his hospital bed in May, Morrison vowed to be back racing in time for the World Cup season-opener Nov. 13-15 in Calgary. He's tempered his expectations and doesn't expect to compete before January if he does race this winter.
"My goal is Pyeongchang,'' he said. "With the way the hip his healing, the knee is healing and the femur is healing, it seems likes skating in 2018 is a much higher chance than originally thought. There's no point rushing it.''
Morrison sees the accident and the injuries as life throwing down a challenge he couldn't resist taking on.
"Any amount that I might have been considering retirement before the injury, it's like now that I'm injured, I have to make a comeback, you know?'' Morrison said. "So I'm not going to retire.
"It was a terrible accident and I could have let it bring me down (and think) I'll never skate again. Or I can look at it that I'm lucky to be alive. I'm lucky to have this opportunity. I'm lucky to have this team to help me come back from this injury. That's what's pushed me.''
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