Denny Morrison finally has his individual Olympic medal — and the first of the 21st century by a Canadian man in long track speed skating.
In a script that played out in a too-good-to-be-true way, the 28-year-old Morrison, who stepped into the men's 1,000 metres after younger teammate Gilmore Junio gave up the spot he earned in qualifying, came up with the race of his life to win silver. Skating in the fourth-last pairing at the oval, the 28-year-old from Fort St. John, B.C., and the Netherlands' Michel Mulder went all out to match the time of one minute 8.39 seconds posted immediately before by Dutch star Stefan Groothuis.
Morrison came in at 1:08.43 and Mulder at 1:08.74 to move into podium positions. They then had to stand there in their skintight suits sweating out the final three heats. American star Shani Davis was up next, but had a relatively sluggish first lap and clocked at 1:09.12, good for eighth.
"This is true Olympic spirit, true Canadian pride," Morrison said in a joint interview with Junio.
"It's been a really tough season, I have been struggling with injury," added Morrison. "I just want to thank all the team for their support. Especially this guy [Junio]. He gave up his place for me and I would never have a medal without him."
"After what he did, it made it even more special. Giving up your spot is unprecedented. I feel like getting my medal and cutting in half because he deserves it."
"I called it," Junio said. "I feel like a prophet ... I was shaking [while Morrison was racing]. I was trying to check the luge scores to keep calm and I couldn't do it."
Morrison is a two-time world champion in the 1,500, but became somewhat synonymous with frustration during the previous two Olympics, being unable to get on the podium individually. He was part of a gold medal win in team pursuit in Vancouver and a silver in pursuit in Turin in 2006.
Junio, whose strongest race is the 500, earned the right to be one of Canada's competitors in the 1,000 after Morrison stumbled during Olympic qualifying this fall and failed to take advantage of a re-skate. He tweaked his starts ahead of his arrival in Sochi.
"My teammates have helped me to work on my opening and my opening was very good," Morrison said.
The 23-year-old Junio, who will presumably be entering his peak years at the 2018 Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, believed Morrison had greater stamina and thus gave Canada a better shot.
"My dad was a little like, 'Why did it have to be you to give up the spot?' But my parents were understanding,” Junio told the Toronto Star prior to the event. "They kind of tease me about how the last half of my 1,000 isn’t the greatest, and I die a lot compared to a lot of the other guys. But my parents raised me to be a team player and I think they’re going to be proud of the fact I’m doing this."
That proved prophetic when Morrison delivered his best Olympic race, which will surely be the stuff of many TV commercials during future Games.
"When [Junio] rang me, I thought he was pulling my leg," Morrison said. "Why would he do it unless he was injured? The coaches knew but decided he was the one to tell me. We were at Canada Olympic House with our families and when it came from the horse's mouth, it was a moment I will never forget."
Canada's last men's long-track medals came in the same race when Jeremy Wotherspoon and Kevin Overland had 2-3 finish in the men's 500 in Nagano.
The country has won 34 medals all time in long track, its most in any winter Olympic discipline.
The Dutch double gave Netherlands 10 of the first 15 medals in long track.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.