Short-track speed skater Elise Christie has revealed that she turned to a sports psychologist to help her recover from the trauma of her last Winter Olympics experience in Sochi three years ago.
The 27-year-old travelled to Russia as one of the gold medal favourites in all three of her distances – 500m, 1,000m and 1,500m – but was disqualified twice and crashed out in the other event.
She was blamed by South Koreans for causing their heroine Park Seung-Hi to fall in one of the events and became the victim of a ferocious barrage of online abuse, some of which went as far as death threats.
Now Christie, from Livingston, is looking forward to another crack at Olympic glory in February, with the fact it will be held in Pyeongchang, South Korea, not causing the concern it may have held in the immediate wake of Sochi, when the Scot was considering stepping away from the sport.
“Eventually, I had to go and ask for some help,” she said at a Team GB media day in Edinburgh yesterday. “Because I just struggled with the fact that my sport had led to death threats.
“I couldn’t link how that worked. Why has something that I’ve loved since I was a kid, something I’ve dreamt of doing, led to that?”
Christie soon rediscovered her feet on the ice and at this year’s World Championships in Rotterdam she stormed to triple gold. She has also won over the speed skating-mad Korean
public, who now view her as a star rather than a panto villain.
“The reaction now is the exact opposite,” she said. “For starters, any short track skater who goes out there is treated more like a celebrity than an athlete.
“They all want to take your picture, they want to touch you – it’s pretty crazy but good fun. It’s good that it has turned around for me. I wouldn’t want to go out there being hated, that’s for sure.”
Christie was forced to close her Twitter account following Sochi but was still apprehensive about competing in Korea.
“The next World Cup I went to in Korea, it wasn’t that season, it was the season after,” she said. “I was thinking: ‘Oh man, I’m going to get booed …’ I was preparing myself for the worst.
“Then everyone ran at me. I couldn’t go in the stands to warm up, there were so many wanting to greet me.
“I think they almost felt embarrassed for the people who had done what they’d done to me. It was nice, definitely. And I was surprised, for sure.”
Christie, who grew up in Livingston before moving to Nottingham aged 15, feels the Sochi experience made her a better athlete and is relishing the opportunity to put things right.
“I think I’ve really, really changed from Sochi. I definitely take things a lot less seriously,” she said. “The biggest thing is that I’m confident – and I’m not desperate, not now.
“I almost had to prove it to myself, before. I didn’t have that self-belief on a daily basis.Now, I’m still not always happy because I always want to be better. But it’s different because I believe in what I’m doing.
“I believe I can go out and win a gold medal. But I also know I’ll survive if I don’t.”