Elise Christie is convinced she will emerge a stronger person from her Winter Olympic nightmare but, for the time being, admits she is still haunted by the trio of calamities which ended any hope of a medal in Sochi last month.
The Livingston 23-year-old faces the daunting task of putting her torrid experience in Russia out of her mind when she returns to the ice as part of a seven-strong Great Britain short-track team at the World Championships in Montreal, starting next Friday. Despite carving out a reputation as a combative character on the ice, Christie says she still has days when she struggles to come to terms with the consequences of having been penalised in her 500 metre, 1000m and 1500m races.
Christie said yesterday: “I have no doubt that what happened will push me on, both as an athlete and a human being and I will become a stronger person for it. At the moment, it’s very up and down. Some days I feel like it’s done and gone but there are still days when it comes back into my head and it is upsetting.
“I came back from Sochi last week and got straight back on the ice. It is probably a bonus that I have a World Championships to focus on now, as it means I don’t have time to mope around after the Olympics and I just have to get on with things.
“There is probably a 10 per cent chance I will struggle mentally and, of course, it could be difficult if I don’t get the outcomes I want. But, either way, I will be refreshed for next season and I will set myself new targets.”
Ordinarily, Christie would go to Montreal as one of the medal favourites, in particular in her favoured 1000m, where she claimed a bronze at the last Worlds in Debrecen last year, and also finished as the overall World Cup champion.
But, having seen her last chance of redemption in Sochi come to an end over that same distance when she was thrown out following a collision on the final bend of her semi-final, Great Britain performance director Stuart Horsepool is under no illusion about the size of Christie’s task.
He said: “We all know about Elise’s battling qualities but she will obviously have to go through a process to get over everything that happened in Sochi and it would be unfair to give her a medal expectation in Montreal.
“The fact is while, as a team, we came back from Sochi with no medals, we fulfilled our targets in terms of top-eight finishes and, with Jack Whelbourne also reaching a final and coming close to a medal if he hadn’t fallen and been injured, it was a strong team performance.”
Christie’s sturdy displays on ice belie a sensitive side which prompted her to delete her Twitter account during the Games when she received threats, said to originate from fans in South Korea, after she was perceived to have affected one of their own athletes’ chances of success. She conceded that, while her own series of mistakes and misfortunes were difficult to take, she has found it tougher to deal with criticism via social media – to the extent that she is already uncomfortable about the prospect of going to her third Winter Games in Pyeongchang in 2018. She said “When the trolling came I thought: ‘How can the sport do this to me?’ It worried me because we go to Korea for World Cups every year and we’ve got the next Olympics there and I might get booed and not be liked over there.
“Realistically, there are going to be threats before I go. But, if that happens, I’ll deal with it and I know the only people who matter are those back home. I just want to have no regrets and do the best I can. I want to be an athlete, not a celebrity. I won’t like the bad attention, but if it comes I will deal with it.”