Canadians Morrison. de Haitre claim medals in speedskating 1,000-metre race

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ERFURT, Germany — Canadian speedskaters Denny Morrison and Vincent de Haitre finished the 2014-’15 season with a bang.

Morrison, of Fort St. John, B.C., captured the final 1,000-metre race of the year Saturday at the long-track speedskating World Cup final. Ottawa native de Haitre was third to claim his first-ever World Cup medal.

“I had a solid first 50 metres in my race, which got me off to a good start,” said Morrison. “In the first turn, however, I had a weird step on to my left skate and I skidded a bit, and for a little while I wondered if I had lost a lot of speed.

“I continued skating and ended up surprised and happy with my opening split, as well as a fast first lap. So I forgot about it and finished as hard as I could.”

Morrison, the 2014 Olympic silver medallist over 1,000 metres, posted a winning time of one minute 9.07 seconds. Kjeld Nuis of the Netherlands was second in 1:09.42 while De Haitre finished in a personal-best 1:09.47.

“I was a little bit hesitant at the start, but I was able to concentrate after that and I simply tried to take my time and stay relaxed,” said de Haitre. “I’m enormously happy with winning my first World Cup medal, especially after coming so close at my very first World Cup in Japan.”

Russia’s Pavel Kulizhnikov was fourth but still finished the season atop the overall standings. Nuis was second while Germany’s Nico Ihle ended up third.

With the victory, Morrison moved from ninth to fifth in the overall 1,000-metre standings while de Haitre was ninth.

“It’s a great sign of things to come,” said Morrison. “If not for an unfavourable disqualification at the start of the season (at a World Cup event in Seoul), I would have been on the overall 1,000-metre podium.

“But I’m not letting that bring me down. I have one more 1,500-metre race Sunday, and then it will be time to celebrate a great season.”

Laurent Dubreuil of Levis, Que., clinched second in the overall 500-metre standings after finishing fourth over that distance Saturday. It’s the first time since 2007-’08 that a Canadian male has finished that high in men’s 500-metre standings. That season, Jeremy Wotherspoon of Red Deer, Alta., was first overall while Edmonton’s Jamie Gregg was fifth in 2012-’13.

Dubreuil was fourth Saturday with a time of 35.26 second.

“There’s no doubt I’m a little bit frustrated to have come so close to a podium finish, only one hundredth of a second away,” said Dubreuil. “On the other hand, I’m now sure to finish second overall, which was my main objective for the weekend.

“I will be able to savour my last race Sunday.”

With files from The Associated Press

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