ELISE Christie maintains she will always accept the referee’s decision in short-track speed skating – but she was left questioning their abilities after being dealt a third and final cruel blow at the Winter Olympics.
Redemption was Christie’s aim heading into the quarter-finals of her specialist 1,000 metres after she was thrown out of the 500m after a fall and not deemed to have finished her 1,500m heat.
The West Lothian racer was boosted by a drama-free performance in the 1,000m heats on Tuesday but when your luck isn’t in, in a sport where it needs to be, it isn’t in and Christie was forced to endure another nightmare session yesterday.
Christie skated decisively to win her quarter-final after a nervy start and looked on course to finish in the top two that would progress from the semi-final to the final – that was until the last bend.
In stark contrast to the 500m final where she took out two skaters with a fall, Christie was this time wiped out by overzealous Li Jianrou from China before quickly getting up to finish third. She thought she would either finish third and progress to the B final or be looked upon kindly by referee Alan Grefsheim, who was also in charge of the 500m, and be advanced straight to the A final and a shot at a medal.
Instead Christie was penalised along with Li, which ended her campaign in the Iceberg Skating Palace – and she couldn’t quite believe what she was seeing yet again.
“Never in a hundred years did I expect to get a penalty for that. I’m confused really,” said Christie. “That is the problem with this sport – it’s different referees each time and you have to deal with it. There is no consistency because every referee has a different opinion.
“I am going to say again, I will always respect the referee’s final decision. I have to accept that anyway as that’s short track but I don’t agree with it. The reason we are so confused is because in the 500m, I got penalised for diving up the inside. We thought that was how the referee was going to judge it. She [Li] tried to come up the inside, I was pretty sure I was in front and I got pushed from behind off the back of my skates. I don’t understand his point of view.”
She added: “Honest to God, I’m pretty sure she hit me from behind. I got disqualified today for the opposite reason to what I got disqualified for in the 500m. Every single member of Team GB is astonished.”
Christie had been adamant that her second Games would end on a high in the 1,000m but she couldn’t and now fears a Chinese backlash on Twitter after receiving abuse on the social-networking site after the 500m and closing her account.
“I would imagine I will be [going back on Twitter]. Probably after the Games have finished – I don’t want to get abuse off the Chinese now,” she added. “I will eventually turn that back on. I can’t wait to read all the messages; it’s overwhelming to get all that support.”
Gold later went to South Korea’s Park Seung-Hi, and as much as Christie would probably like to hide away from short track when these Winter Olympics come to a close tomorrow night, she can’t. For there is the small matter of a World Championships in Montreal next month, which does at least provide her with another shot at redemption.
The prizes aren’t quite the same but, after winning 1,000m bronze at last year’s global gathering to offer hope for Sochi, she wants to simply enjoy it. “I am going to do my best and try and enjoy it a bit more. I have spent four years in the gravel, trying to get this medal and be the best out there,” she added. “I have come a long way. It will be nice to enjoy a competition after this. Last year I could only win if I was in lane one or two.”
Compatriot Jon Eley, who went out in the 500m semi-finals, predicted Christie would bounce back in Pyeongchang in 2018. “It’s upsetting for the team but this will make her a lot stronger,” he told the BBC. “She has had some unlucky times but she is a great racer and I think she will come back in four years’ time and win the gold medal.”
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