Olympic short-track speed skater Elise Christie says she fully intends to conquer the demons that threatened to derail her when she returns to Sochi later this month for the European Championships.
The Livingston athlete, 25, could be forgiven for having some reservations about making the trip to the Russian city given the trauma she endured at the Winter Olympics in 2014 – suffering disqualifications in the 500 metres, 1000m and 1500m events before receiving abusive messages on social networking site Twitter.
Almost two years on from what Christie describes as her most harrowing experience, the Scot will return to the Iceberg Skating Palace in two weeks time hoping to put her Sochi hell behind her once and for all.
Christie is the reigning European 500m and 1500m champion having scooped gold in Dordrecht last year and was expected to travel with the rest of her Team GB team-mates to Moscow for the competition which gets underway on January 22. However, the venue in the Russian capital is currently under reconstruction and won’t be ready in time.
“I’m not super excited,” she laughed when asked about her imminent return to Sochi. “At last year’s Europeans, the referee was the one from the Olympics and this time we’re heading back to Sochi which is really strange when you think about it. I must admit I found it hard seeing him again last year. There were so many things I wanted to say about the disqualifications he gave me but I couldn’t. What would be the point? I’ve moved on.
“I suppose I was still feeling a lot more raw this time last year so I don’t know how I’ll feel when I get back out on the ice there in a couple of weeks. I hope I can move on and have some success but it’s short track, I could fall over on the first corner.
“I really want to go out there and retain my two titles. If it doesn’t happen, it won’t be the end of the world because I know that isn’t the main focus this year for the team or myself. But I think I can as I feel physically and mentally better.”
Christie has had a fine start to 2016 after retaining her triple crown at the British Championships in Nottingham last weekend.
“To win all three was great, particularly coming back from my ankle injury I had last year,” she said. “I skated well so it’s been a great start to the year. The British titles still mean a lot to me.
“I suppose everyone expected me to win but that adds pressure in itself. I’ve won all three titles every year since I started competing as a senior six years ago so it’s always nice to keep it going. One day, I know it isn’t going to be like that, I’ll be older, younger skaters will be coming through, but that’s just the way sport works.”
Having had the support of Sky Sports’ Scholarship programme for the past two years, a special documentary titled ‘I am Elise Christie’ aired on Christmas Day which offered up behind-the-scenes footage of how the athlete has responded in the face of adversity both on and off the ice – an opportunity she was only happy to fulfil.
“I was jet lagged when we filmed the documentary but it was really good fun,” she explained. “It was a bit different to the normal TV stuff but it was nice to do. It’s always good to get the sport out there and Sky have really helped with promoting short track.
“It is unusual for our sport to be involved in something like that but I think we’re now seeing the benefits with more kids wanting to become involved. Even at the British Championships there were a lot more entries this year.
“But also I think if the media and the public hadn’t been so supportive after Sochi then I probably would have retired. It’s hard to say that now but it was really in my mind as I felt so low.”