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Speed skating sisters on short track to Olympics with Team GB
Updated On: May 8, 2017
Hannah (left) & Samantha Morrison. Photos provided

By Mat LaBranche

They grew up in Orleans with the Gloucester Concordes Speed Skating Club, moved to Calgary and the national team’s centre, they’re now roommates in Nottingham, and they hope the next stop will be PyeongChang in 2018. No matter where the Morrison sisters’ speed skating journey goes, they always stick at each other’s side.

“I think it's great that my sister and I get to do this together,” signals Samantha Morrison. “It helps having someone else who's going through the same experience and it's good to have that support when we're so far from the rest of our family.”

Samantha, 25, and her younger sister, Hannah, 22, were back in Canada recently to visit with their parents, Dave and Lynne – former Concordes coaches now leading a Speed Skating Canada regional group at the Richmond Olympic Oval – on the heels of their first World Cup Short Track season skating for Great Britain.

Dave was born in the UK while his father was there on a military posting, which gives his girls the right to compete for Team GB thanks to their dual citizenship.

“I decided to make the move to Great Britain because I felt that I wasn't progressing anymore in Canada, and that this change would provide me with more chances to continue to move forward,” explains Hannah. “There are so many athletes skating in Canada that there aren't the same opportunities to compete outside of the country.

“Skating (in Great Britain) has allowed me to race in competitions and get to a level that I likely wouldn't have been able to had I stayed in Canada.”

Aiding in the decision-making process was fellow Morrison-coached Concorde alumnus Nicolas Bean’s past success.

“I think seeing Nic make the move to a different country and have the success that he did helped to show me what taking advantage of an opportunity like this can really give me,” Hannah says of the 2010 Olympian who competed for Italy. “He definitely made us aware that it could be an option for us to maybe compete for Great Britain one day.”

The move paid off, as the pair cracked the Team GB lineup and competed in their first career World Cup events this season, with the first event taking place in familiar territory.

“Skating my first World Cup was really special for me because it just worked out that the first event of the season was in Calgary where I lived and trained for five years, and my family and friends got to come out and watch,” reflects Samantha, who’d been injured early this season but still managed to stamp her passport with China, Germany, Belarus, USA and South Korea stamps for World Cup stops. “I think the standout experience for me though was getting to skate and compete in the Olympic venue where the Games will be next year.”

Based on their 2016-2017 results – which have no actual bearing on 2018 Olympic qualification – the Morrisons would have been a bit outside of individual Olympic berths, Hannah sitting #43 on the priority list for the 1,500-metre race that will feature 36 Olympic entrants.

The sisters’ best prospect to make it to PyeongChang would be to secure a place on the British women’s 3,000 m relay team and help them improve upon their #10 ranking from 2016-2017 into the top-8 during the first four World Cups of 2017-2018.

“I think the fact that we just missed out on the World Championships this year is still extremely positive since we're such a new team,” underlines Samantha, a 4-time short-track speed skater of the year winner at the Ottawa Sports Awards. “I think we've already improved so much this season and we know what we need to work on, so we're only going to get stronger moving forward to next season so I definitely think we have a good chance for next year.”

Curler shooting for USA Olympic berth

Manotick native Jamie Sinclair is looking to follow a somewhat similar path to the Games. The Anchorage-born, Minneapolis-based curler won the U.S. nationals this season, which gave her entry to the season-ending Grand Slam of Curling Champions Cup event Apr. 25-30 in Calgary.

Thanks to round-robin wins over China’s Bingyu Wang and Mississauga’s Jacqueline Harrison and a last-shot comeback victory over Manitoba’s Kerri Einarson in the tiebreaker, Sinclair skipped her team into the playoff round before falling to Switzerland’s Alina Paetz in the quarter-finals.

“It’s our first Slam as a team, so to qualify (for the playoffs), it’s huge for us,” Sinclair said in a media release. “This was our goal, so we’re super pumped. I’m just really proud of the girls.”

Winning the Champions Cup was a team Sinclair could very well face in PyeongChang – Rachel Homan’s Ottawa Curling Club crew.

Team Homan played without regular second Joanne Courtney, who was busy clinching an Olympic berth for Canada with her silver medal performance at the Apr. 22-30 World Mixed Doubles Curling Championship just down the road in Lethbridge.

Homan downed 2014 Olympic champion Jennifer Jones, Paetz and Sweden’s Anna Hasselborg in the playoffs to earn the Champions Cup title on the heels of their first World Championship gold medal in late March.

“It’s really exciting we were able to finish the season off with a win,” Homan said. “Ready for a break.”

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