Short track speed-skater Elise Christie’s Olympic nightmare has been under the microscope ever since her disqualification in all three of her events in Sochi almost two years ago.
However, the Livingston athlete made an emotional return to the Russian city last weekend but, this time, returned home a triple European champion.
Christie blew the field away at the Iceberg Skating Palace to win gold in the 500 metres, 1000m and 1500m, a triumph she describes as the “best moment of her career”.
Her success has gone some way to erasing the trauma she suffered at the same venue in February 2014, where she had been widely tipped to deliver gold for Team GB.
But instead, her disqualifications and subsequent online abuse, left Christie fearing for her future in the sport.
However, the 25-year-old, who retained her 500m and 1500m European titles after winning gold in Dordrecht last year, believes she can finally look back on her time in Sochi with some fond memories.
“Winning three golds has been the highlight of my career for sure,” Christie told the Evening News. “It’s the most consistent I’ve skated and being back in Sochi, it’s a pretty amazing achievement. If I don’t win anything else for the rest of this season then I don’t think I can be too disappointed.
“Of course, I would swap the European medals for the Olympics every time, but that’s not an option. I don’t really feel any negativity towards Sochi now and the Russians are always really supportive in the ice rink. There were quite a few messages sent to me and someone from the crowd also gave me a flower, which was really nice.
“I went out there to try and retain my two titles from last year so I didn’t really expect to come back with all three. There’s only a few people that have managed to do that before so I was pretty shocked. The 500 was pretty straightforward but I only managed to get into first on the last lap in the 1500. When I came off the ice on Saturday with the double [500m, 1500m], I was determined to get that third medal on Sunday.”
Christie, who also captained the British team out in Russia, understandably, harboured some reservations regarding her return but says she managed to keep her focus when it mattered. “It was harder than I thought it was going to be going back,” she said. “I didn’t really feel anything before I went out, but when you land at the airport and the Olympic rings are there staring at you in the face, that’s when I felt a bit funny and went a bit quiet.
“But the thing that really got me was standing on the start line for my first race. I started to replay the last race I did at the Olympics in my head again because I remember the pressure I was feeling because of what had happened in my two previous events and I also had everybody watching me. I had felt really scared back then. But I managed to switch off from it all and didn’t really think about it again until after the competition and that’s when I got a bit upset.
“But I think it really helped me skippering the team as I had to focus on the others as well. It was great to have Charlotte [Gilmartin, her team-mate] on the podium with me as well.”
For now, the Nottingham-based Scot has little time to enjoy her success with the World Championships in Seoul little more than six weeks away. She can, however, approach the competition in South Korea with the target of bringing home some more medals.
“I feel a lot more confident about the World Championships now,” Christie said. “I still had my doubts after my ankle injury if I am where I need to be. The worlds are of a much higher standard but hopefully everything goes to plan. I haven’t got long to prepare but I’m going in the right direction.”