SPEED skater Elise Christie admitted yesterday that the race for Olympic 1,000 metres gold had been thrown wide open after the defending champion was all but ruled out of next month’s Sochi Games.
China’s Wang Meng, who is also the reigning world champion, has reportedly been left needing a minor medical miracle to recover from an ankle injury in time to skate in Russia, where the Games begin on 7 February.
Wang hurt her ankle in training last week, and Scotland’s Christie, who won the European 1,000m title on Sunday in Dresden, said: “I was pretty devastated for her, she’s someone that has a lot of respect in this sport. But it’ll make a difference. It’ll be quite a lot different without her.
“She’s an amazing athlete,” added the 23-year-old, speaking to BBC Sport after her victory. “It could be her last Games, and [her injury] is sad for anyone. She’s one of the top skaters, especially tactically – she just takes control.”
After Eve Muirhead’s world champion curlers, Christie is Scotland’s strongest medal prospect heading to Sochi – Gillian Cooke looks highly unlikely to take part after Britain’s women only qualified one bobsleigh place.
Christie and another Scot, Kilmarnock teenager Kat Thomson, also won European silver at the weekend in the 3,000m relay. Along with Charlotte Gilmartin and Alex Stanley, the quartet refer to themselves as CAKE.
Christie is a world bronze medallist and double European champion in the 1,000m, but she was told in no uncertain terms where there is scope for improvement after the ups and downs of Dresden, where she fell short of expectations in the 500m and 1,500m and Team GB performance director Stuart Horsepool concluded that she was “still struggling with race tactics and the whole competitive environment”.
Christie acknowledged the work that remains ahead of her in the next fortnight as she said: “I’m improving. I’m a bit more adaptable now, but I could still make a few more minor changes.”
London Olympics gold medallist Lauryn Williams and former hurdling world champion Lolo Jones have been included in the United States bobsleigh team for next month’s Sochi Winter Games.
Williams and Jones will join an elite group of athletes to represent their country at the Summer and Winter Olympics after being chosen as female push athletes. The pair were among a total of nine push athletes who were selected along with six drivers for the women’s and men’s bobsled events in Sochi.
“This is the deepest field of push athletes we’ve ever had,” the US Bobsled & Skeleton Federation (USBSF) chief executive Darrin Steele said in a statement. “We knew heading into the season that the Olympic selection was going to be extremely difficult. It’s a good problem to have, but it meant that some outstanding athletes would not make the Olympic Team.”
Jamie Greubel, Elana Meyers and Jazmine Fenlator earned spots as the top-three ranked US pilots in the international standings while Jones, Williams and Aja Evans were nominated as the women’s push athletes.
Jones, a two-time world indoor hurdles champion, was the favourite to win gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics but tripped and fell on the penultimate hurdle. The Iowan later decided to try her hand at winter sports and helped recruit Williams, a former world 100 metres champion who retired from the track less than a year after winning Olympic gold as part of the 4x100m relay team at the 2012 London Games.
It also emerged yesterday that the Jamaican bobsleigh team will end a 12-year absence from the Winter Olympics after confirming their qualification for the two-man competition at next month’s Sochi Games. And Jamaican Chef de Mission and four-time Olympic bobsleigh team member Nelson Stokes promised the team will definitely be on the start line despite major funding concerns.
Winston Watts will pilot the team at the age of 47 and will be joined by 30-year-old brake-man Marvin Dixon. Their return represents the latest chapter of a Winter Olympics odyssey which began with the debut of the Jamaican four-man team’s debut in Calgary in 1988, which later inspired the hit movie Cool Runnings.
The Jamaican team performed poorly at their second Olympics in 1992 in France, but finished a creditable 14th in 1994 at the Lillehammer Games in Norway.