NICKY Gooch believes Elise Christie has got the tactics to beat the best in the world at the Winter Olympics today but admits it won’t be easy.
Christie skated a tactically perfect race to progress through her 1000m heat on Tuesday but faces a tough quarter-final that includes long track gold medallist Jorien ter Mors and Korea’s Seung-Hi Park, who she brought down during the 500m final.
Last season European champion Christie dominated over the distance, winning the overall World Cup title and claiming bronze at the World Championships. But her pace-setting tactics have since been revised and Gooch believes it is finally paying off. “She is just focused on doing her best, getting the tactics right and keeping her head straight,” said Gooch. “We’ve worked to bring more dimensions to her tactics and make her a more complete skater and taken some of the predictability out of what she’s doing out there. She’s a strong skater and last year was racing from the front and people soon worked that out. We’ve added more into her locker now, she is not as predictable. Every race can be different and she has the skills to adapt now.”
Gooch insists Christie is physically ready for the challenge of her last bid for a medal in Sochi but admits the mental battle could be tougher to win.
The 23-year-old was disqualified in the final of the 500m and then skated just fractions outside the finish line to be ruled out of the 1500m. But she claims it’s the abuse she’s received on Twitter that has hit her the hardest.
“We’ve been working hard with Elise after everything that has happened. The whole team has been involved, from the psychologist to the coaches and the other athletes. It’s been a team effort,” added Gooch, the last British skater to win an Olympic short track medal when he claimed 500m bronze 20 years ago in Lillehammer.
“She is a very honest athlete and says what she’s thinking and we wouldn’t change who she is. We’ve told her not to let things get to her and to try and prove a point. She needs to focus on things she can do, rather than things she can’t. To be honest, everything just got inside her.
“In Britain, footballers and cricketers, it’s their job every weekend, they’re in the press. For our guys, it’s once every four years. It did get into her head, the things people were saying to her. Even without those problems, it is still going to be tough for her. She is skating well enough but the racing is difficult here, we’ve had world and Olympic champions fall over and there are no guarantees in this sport.”