Denny Morrison's "guardian angel" joins him on Canada's Olympic long-track team

Denny Morrison puts on his Team Canada jacket after being named to the Canadian Olympic speedskating team in Calgary, Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Denny Morrison puts on his Team Canada jacket after being named to the Canadian Olympic speedskating team in Calgary, Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol

CALGARY - When speedskater Denny Morrison was in the hospital after his motorcycle crash in 2015, he told nurses the Canadian teammate at his bedside was his future wife.

"We weren't even dating yet," Josie Morrison recalled.

Denny Morrison's improbable comeback from a motorcycle crash and a stroke to compete in his fourth Winter Olympics is a compelling enough story.

That his wife of less than a year will join him at her first Winter Games adds the violin music.

Denny calls Josie his "guardian angel" because she recognized the signs of stroke after their multi-day bike ride in Arizona in 2016, and got him medical attention.

They were married May 13, 2017, but delayed their honeymoon until after the 2018 Winter Games.

Josie Morrison, nee Spence, found out early Wednesday morning she would wear the Maple Leaf alongside her husband in Pyeongchang, South Korea, in February.

After the Canadian trials concluded Tuesday night in Calgary, Josie didn't know if she'd done enough to become an Olympian. It was just after midnight when the email came.

"My stomach hurt so bad. I was so stressed out," she said. "I got the email and I sat on Denny's lap and I opened the attachment together with him and saw my name. I was overjoyed."

Said Denny: "It was pretty neat to witness that and to share that moment with her when she read that email and opened the attachment and 'where is my name? There it is.'"

The nine women and 10 men who will race at the Gangneung Oval starting Feb. 12 were introduced Wednesday by Speed Skating Canada and the Canadian Olympic Committee.

Canada is allowed to take a maximum of 10 athletes per gender in long-track.

With eight women and nine men meeting qualification criteria at trials, Speed Skating Canada had the option of adding skaters to strengthen the men's and women's pursuit teams which are medal contenders.

Josie Morrison, a 23-year-old from Kamloops, B.C., was a member of the women's pursuit team that won a pair of World Cup bronze medals the first half of this season.

"When Denny and I first started dating, this was kind of a dream of ours and it's cool that it actually played out, especially with all the things that happened with the stroke and the motorcycle accident, to be here with him, standing up here with our Canadian jackets is really surreal," she said.

Denny won both of Canada's long-track medals at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, with a silver in the 1,000 metres and bronze in the 1,500.

Canada has multiple medal threats in 2018. Calgary's Ted-Jan Bloemen is the world-record holder in both the 10k and 5k, Vincent de Haitre of Cumberland, Ont., is a medal favourite in the 1,000 and Alex Boisvert-Lacroix of Sherbrooke, Que., has dominated the men's 500 this year.

Calgary's Gilmore Junio, who vacated his spot in the 1,000 in Sochi for Morrison, will race the 500 at a second straight Winter Games.

On the women's side, Ottawa's Ivanie Blondin is a medal favourite in the new mass start event, as well as a contender in the 3,000 and 5,000 metres.

Susan Auch, an Olympic silver medallist in 1994 and now chief executive officer of Speed Skating Canada, says the long-track team recovered some depth of talent in the last four years.

"I think it is one of the strongest teams," she said. "We set the bar really high this time partly because of the results we had in Sochi. It's interesting when you set a bar high, people strive for it and they reach it."

Regina's Kali Christ, Marsha Hudey of White City, Sask., Kaylin Irvine of Calgary, Keri Morrison of Burlington, Ont., Brianne Tutt of Airdrie, Alta., Ottawa's Isabelle Weidemann and Winnipeg's Heather McLean were also named to the women's team.

Toronto's Jordan Belchos, Ben Donnelly of Oshawa, Ont., Laurent Dubreuil of Levis, Que., Oliver Jean of Lachenaie, Que., and Alex St. Jean of Quebec City round out the men's team.

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved. 2018

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