SCOTTISH speed skater Elise Christie insisted the smile was back on her face as she bids to conclude an Olympic story that has had its share of misery and agony with a happy ending.
There were tears again for Christie in Sochi yesterday but this time they were tears of relief rather than anger or frustration.
The 23-year-old short track skater produced a tactically astute performance to progress through her 1000m heat with ease. But after a nightmare week that has seen her disqualified from the 500m final, attacked on social media and struck out from a 1500m race she appeared to win, only to be told she’d missed the finish line by fractions, it was just good to skate without any dramas.
“I’ve had a few days feeling quite down and I was pretty emotional,” she admitted. “I didn’t train very well this week but when I stepped on the ice I was ready to go and felt very confident,” she said. “I did briefly think about pulling out but I would never do that. I’ve got that grit in me that keeps me wanting to carry on, but I was feeling pretty low, the lowest I have in my career.
“I was told about all the support back home and I smiled for the first time in a while. When I considered not getting back on the ice, the support I’ve had pushed me to get back on. I know disqualifications come with short track but I felt I had a lot of people against me last week. But that’s all gone now and I know I’ve got the whole of Britain behind me and everything is wiped now.”
Christie was last season’s surprise package, winning a string of World Cup medals and claiming bronze at the World Championships over 1000m, a race which established her as genuine medal contender in Russia. However, this season her rivals have seemed to work out her normal preference to lead from the front, which made yesterday’s heat all the more encouraging for Christie and coach Nicky Gooch.
Christie was happy to let the others do the work as she skated out of danger at the back – and then showed a mean acceleration to surge clear of her rivals with three laps to go. She crossed right in the middle of the finish line and never came close to a tangle.
“My coach wanted me just to enjoy it and get the love back for skating,” she added.
“He told me to use my instincts so I decided to sit at the back and then go clear at the end.”
Christie has a tough draw in Friday’s quarter-finals, lining up against Korea’s Seung-Hi Park, one of the skaters she brought down during the 500m final, new Dutch star Jorien ter Mors, who is seeking a prized double after winning the 1500m long track speed skating title on Sunday, plus Canada’s Marie-Eve Drolet and France’s Veronique Pierron. However, only the top two will advance to the semi-finals and as we’ve repeatedly heard in recent days – anything can happen in short track.
At the other end of the distance spectrum, – Jorrit Bergsma of the Netherlands won the men’s 10,000m title in an Olympic record time of 12 minutes, 44.45 seconds. l Samsung are a proud partner of Team GB and are supporting the Samsung Galaxy Team. To meet the team, see exclusive content and win amazing prizes, including once-in-a-lifetime winter sport training sessions with the Samsung Galaxy Team athletes, visit: www.samsung.com/uk/sochi2014