WATCH: Denny Morrison and Gilmore Junio talk about friendship, competition and their secret handshake
At first, Denny Morrison thought it was a joke.
He’d just gotten back to his room after dinner and checked his phone, which he’d left charging.
Among several missed calls he saw the text from Gilmore Junio – “and I wasn’t really sure if it was serious at first. I thought it was a joke from a different teammate,” Morrison said Thursday. Later, he ran into Junio in person. And Junio repeated the offer: Morrison could skate the men’s 1000-metre speed skating event in his place.
“I heard it right from the guy’s mouth and couldn’t really – couldn’t really thank him enough. I didn’t really know what to say. I was emotional and – but trying to hold it together. I had a race in two days so it was a pretty huge move and yeah. It’s unbelievable to have a friend like Gilmore.”
For Junio, the decision had been the culmination of a tense 20-minute discussion.
“But at the end of the day it was a no brainer. Denny’s one of our best skaters and we need him on the ice and not – so it was easy for me to kind of, you know, step aside and allow the guy to skate,” Junio said. “And obviously it worked out well.”
That’s an understatement: Morrison picked up a silver medal – an accolade he’d missed in Vancouver four years ago.
The feeling, Morrison said, is “”utter joy today compared to utter dissatisfaction four years ago. So I feel like I’ve come a long way and I’m so glad I had this opportunity and it’s all – all in thanks to Gilmore. … I don’t feel right taking a standing ovation without giving one to Gilmore.”
Junio’s hesitant to take credit.
“Not at all, I mean … he was the one on the ice and he’s the one that executed the race and I couldn’t be more proud of the guy. The guy works his butt off and he deserves every bit of this.”
That includes a day or so to let the victory sink in.
“It’s been pretty relaxed actually. I feel like I’ve spent all my day on Twitter trying to get back to everyone. … Gilmore’s been the guy taking all the media and stuff,” Morrison said. “I’m supposed to be relaxing before my next race so they’ve kept me under wraps but it’s been awesome, so much congratulations going around the athletes’ village and I just laid out in the sun today and kind of took it all in.”
Morrison said he doesn’t feel like he should share his medal with Junio – “he’s gonna win enough of his own medals. He won’t need half of one of mine” – but he does think there are better ways to recognize Junio’s selfless gesture.
“It’s unprecedented, that’s for sure. And that’s why I think it would be awesome if Canada made the unprecedented move of making one of the athletes who didn’t win a medal as a closing ceremony’s flag bearer because he really exemplified what it means to be Canadian.”
Would Junio take the flag?
“Oh no, I gotta ask Denny. He might want it. So if he doesn’t want it then I’ll take it,” he demurred. “But it would definitely be a huge honour. But I think there’s a lot of great Canadian stories still to be told and a lot of great Canadian stories that came out of the Games so far, but definitely would be a huge honour. But there’s a handful of Canadians that deserve it.”