They say nothing is guaranteed in shock track speed skating – except it seems drama and Elise Christie in tears.
For the second time in three days, she was left devastated after falling foul of judges at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, a fractional error of judgment leaving her fuming and fragile.
Christie appeared to win her heat in the 1500m, but closer inspection – only because a photo finish was required to decide the places behind her – showed she had failed to cross the black line painted on the ice, skating just “millimetres” inside it.
Coach Nicky Gooch, the last British skater to win an Olympic medal in a sport where you don’t just have to be good but also lucky, passionately advocated Christie’s case, which promoted a Russian skater at her expense.
However, arguing with short skate judges is a bit like arguing with a traffic warden: frustrating and futile.
“The referee said Elise didn’t cross the line,” he said. “Where the finish line crosses the track, she crossed just inside that line. The judge ruled that she didn’t finish the race.
“The top three qualified. She had done nothing wrong and had skated perfectly. She tried to win the race because there is a benefit to that and the referee has called her finish off track.
“I’ve seen it called before, but it doesn’t happen normally and I was really shocked – it’s totally rubbish to be honest. I’ve looked at the video and we’re talking millimetres here.
“To the very letter of the law it’s probably right, but she has clearly qualified through that race, but the rules say you can’t be inside the line and that’s it, nothing we can do.”
It means the 23-year-old has just one event left to deliver on her undoubted podium potential and while it’s over 1000m that she has enjoyed her greatest success, with a medal at last year’s World Championships and a recent European title, you have to wonder about her mental state.
Fears only heightened after it was revealed team officials had asked Christie to close her Twitter account, after some mindless messages had mocked her for her performance in the 500m final when she fell with a medal within her grasp.
Asked her greatest strength in the days before these Games, Christie claimed she could bounce back from any disappointment – words she will now have to live up to.
“I have had a few people threatening me on Twitter and it has been a tough few days and I’m finding it quite hard,” she said.
“I don’t know what to say about the judges. I really want a reason to respect the ref’s decision.
“I was waiting to watch my team-mate race and I didn’t know whether I’d come first or second, but I believed I’d qualified and skated a clean race.
“However, they’ve disqualified me. I don’t know what to say. I’m just confused. It’s out of my control now. It has happened and I need to get on with it.
“I’m looking forward to getting back out there for the 1000m, but it has been a hard few days and I’m struggling to bounce back. I’m just going to try my best.”
Meanwhile, Vicki Adams’ maiden Olympic campaign with the reigning world champion British women’s curling rink suffered more inconsistencies as they beat Korea, but lost to Switzerland before yesterday’s rest day.
Adams has set records alongside skip Eve Muirhead in Sochi, but an 8-6 final end defeat to Switzerland, following an earlier 10-8 victory over Korea, leaves them in a potentially fragile position.
They head into their decisive round-robin matches today against Russia and Denmark knowing they can’t slip up again with a won four, lost three record, but skip Muirhead insists Adams won’t panic.
“It’s in our own hands. We’ve got a day off and we’ll take advantage of that and come back strongly against Russia and Denmark,” she said.
“We’re not done and out. We’ve got a long way to go and we’ll be pushing hard on Monday.”
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