Cool Christie turns up Seoul heat to ban­ish Sochi blues

Olympic pain still haunts fly­ing Scot but re­newed con­fi­dence and self-be­lief pro­pel her back to podium

The Herald - Herald Sport - - SPEED SKATING, ATHLETICS - SU­SAN EGEL­STAFF

THE fact that Elise Christie re­turned home from last week­end’s Short Track Speed Skat­ing World Cham­pi­onships in Seoul, Korea with three medals in her pocket and yet still had a sense of dis­ap­point­ment hang­ing over her says a lot about the 25-year-old from Liv­ingston.

Sil­ver in the 1000m and bronze in the 1500m, as well as third place in the over­all stand­ings, may be a pretty de­cent re­turn, but for Christie, fail­ing to claim a world cham­pion’s ti­tle still irks her some­what. “I’m pretty happy and I’m re­ally pleased to get on the podium over­all be­cause that’s the first time I’ve achieved that,” she says. “But the com­pe­ti­tion didn’t go 100 per cent to plan so I’m com­ing away with mixed emo­tions.”

The dif­fer­ence be­tween the top step of the podium and se­cond or third place is min­i­mal at the top level of any sport but in speed skat­ing, an al­most im­per­cep­ti­ble er­ror can be hugely costly.

“In the 500m, which is my best event, I was re­ally hop­ing to be­come world cham­pion, but I got knocked out in the quar­ter-fi­nals be­cause I made a stupid mis­take,” Christie ex­plains. “One of the girls came from be­hind me but I didn’t see her and I bumped her by mis­take – I lost all of my speed and ended up get­ting knocked out. It was a re­ally silly er­ror.”

Sim­i­larly, in the 1500m and 1000m, a com­bi­na­tion of bad luck and slight mis­judg­ments cost Christie the gold medals but the Scot can see the pos­i­tives in still man­ag­ing to claim two medals de­spite the er­rors.

“The fact that I got sil­ver and bronze but still have room for im­prove­ment gives me a lot of self-be­lief and it makes me think that if I can get the prepa­ra­tion a bit bet­ter and not make any mis­takes then hope­fully I can be­come world cham­pion,” she says. “This is the first time I’d been in a win­ning po­si­tion at the Worlds so to get it right first time would have been pretty tough. I think it’s im­por­tant for me that I’ve now been in that win­ning po­si­tion at the World Cham­pi­onships. So it’s def­i­nitely a big step for­ward.”

Christie knows more than most how se­verely pun­ished one can be by the tini­est of mis­takes on the ice. Two years ago, she went into the Sochi Win­ter Olympics with the hope of ful­fill­ing her dream of be­com­ing Olympic cham­pion but it ended in disas­ter af­ter be­ing dis­qual­i­fied from all three events.

Christie was un­der­stand­ably heart­bro­ken and suf­fered deep psy­cho­log­i­cal cuts from that Olympic dis­ap­point­ment and she ad­mits that her ex­pe­ri­ences over re­cent sea­sons have changed her.

“I think I have changed as a per­son over the last few years,” she says. “My emo­tions used to be re­ally up and down but I think that all the tough ex­pe­ri­ences I’ve had to deal with have taught me not to take things too se­ri­ously be­cause it’s just sport. That’s hard be­cause it’s your whole life but I’ve def­i­nitely de­vel­oped and I don’t get as af­fected by things now be­cause re­ally, what can ever be as bad as what hap­pened at the Olympics?”

Christie re­turned home from Sochi in 2014 with a se­vere dent in her con­fi­dence and it has taken un­til this sea­son for that con­fi­dence to be re­built. This sea­son though, she has proved her class, win­ning three gold medals at the Euro­pean Cham­pi­onships in Jan­uary, as well as nu­mer­ous World Cup ti­tles be­fore the cul­mi­na­tion of her sea­son at last week­end’s World Cham­pi­onships. If any crit­i­cism can be lev­elled at Christie though, it is that she is too mod­est about her im­pres­sive achieve­ments and she ad­mits that keep­ing her con­fi­dence high can be some­thing of an in­ter­nal bat­tle.

“I’m quite a pes­simistic per­son and I do find the self-be­lief part quite dif­fi­cult,” she says. “A few years ago when I be­came World Cup cham­pion, I re­mem­ber be­ing re­ally con­fi­dent but I lost a lot of that af­ter the Olympics. I think I had a real fear of fail­ure – the thought that I might never win an Olympic medal over­shad­owed ev­ery­thing and my con­fi­dence took a real knock. This year is the first time I re­ally got it back and so I’m re­ally go­ing to try to race with more self-be­lief be­cause it def­i­nitely helps me.”

Christie may have had her best sea­son ever but in no way is she tak­ing her foot off the gas. Af­ter a cou­ple of weeks break, she will be back into train­ing and will be­gin next sea­son again with the aim of be­com­ing world cham­pion.

With her re­newed sense of con­fi­dence, along with an­other year’s ex­pe­ri­ence in the bank, it will take a brave man to bet against her.

Pic­ture: Martin Holtom

SPEED MER­CHANT: Elise Christie leads the field at the Short Track Speed Skat­ing World Cham­pi­onships.

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