WINTER OLYMPICS SHORT TRACK SPEED SKATING
NO-ONE likes to write the same story, but as Elise Christie was sent flailing across the ice it was all just a bit eerily familiar.
There’s no filter with Christie. What you see is what you get and what we got yesterday was tears and raw emotion. No hugs could console, no words could encourage. She was just utterly bereft and devastated at her misfortune – again.
Christie had looked imperious during the heats, twice setting new Olympic records in the 500m event in which she holds the world record.
But she finished second in her semi-final and that meant a wide draw for the final, putting further pressure on her start – which she admits is her weakest attribute.
Anything can and does happen in short track, as skaters career in diminishing circles around a tight track at 30mph.
Thrills and spills are as guaranteed as, it seems, are Christie’s tears after her fourthplace finish, her cause not aided by a five-person final when Canada’s Kim Boutin was promoted from her semi-final.
“I was knocked over, I didn’t fall on my own and it sucks,” she said. “It’s just tough, I’ve worked so hard for this and it has been taken away from me. Right now I can’t see living with this feeling.
“It is short track and I’m supposed to be prepared for this, but it hurts.
“Hopefully I can come back again. I can reset. It’s almost a week until my best distance but I ended up with fourth place and that’s pretty tough to deal with right now.
“So many little things conspired against me. I got bumped in my semi-final and because it wasn’t that quick, I started from lane four. I’m not the fastest starter, so I knew the likelihood of winning gold was pretty slim at that point.
“The race shifted around and then I thought that I could win the thing. I got caught and that just sucks. I tried my best to hold the corner but we’re going quite fast on these tiny blades.
“When I went down I knew it was over because I knew they would only penalise one person.
“Normally there’s only four people in a final too, so if you get knocked over by someone you still get a medal by the end of it too.
“It’s really hard to explain, I’ve worked so hard for that moment out there and I got knocked over.”
In the end Korean Choi Min-jeong was disqualified to the boos of home fans while Italy’s Arianna Fontana took gold ahead of Dutch skater Yara van Kerkhof and Boutin.
Christie will now have three days to reset her focus on the 1500m this weekend, one of her world title distances from last year.
But it’s not until next Thursday that she races in the 1000m – her main event. But Christie is not the same athlete as four years ago, when she suffered almost eerily similar misfortune in Sochi.
She fell in two events and was disqualified in another at those Games but has since won 11 of her 12 global medals, including those three world golds 12 months ago.
FORMER Olympic stars were queuing up to back her to recover, including skier Chemmy Alcott and skeleton slider Amy Williams, an Olympic gold medallist in 2010 as well as Team GB chef de mission Mike Hay.
“Anytime when it’s the aftermath of a race, especially when it’s an Olympic final, you’re not going to feel great,” he said. “I admire her for trying to win gold and everybody at home could see she tried everything to move up the field, so I’m disappointed for her. However, she is a different athlete to four years ago and she’s got great support staff around her.”
Elise Christie slides across the ice after being bumped in the 500m speed skating final yesterday by disqualified Korean Choi Min-jeong