Elise Christie made a flying start to her Olympic campaign – and insisted she was only going to get quicker.
Short track speed skater Christie got her tactics spot on as she progressed to Thursday’s 500m quarter-finals with a victory in her heat.
But the world bronze medallist over 1000m did it the hard way, with a tough draw meaning there was no margin for error in her race plan.
“I had a lot more speed in me, I was being patient and just trying not to get knocked over. I’ve a lot more in the tank and there is a lot of racing to come,” said Christie, after finishing ahead of home favourite and sprint specialist Sofia Prosvirnova.
“It’s been nice to get here and just get a feel for the environment. You’ve got to get the tactics right on the day and I’m really pleased to have nailed it. When I saw the draw I was a bit upset, I knew it was going to be a real challenge.
“Sofia is a very good skater over 500m, she’s made World Cup finals this season and I haven’t, so that’s a great scalp to take and it certainly shows that my form is pretty good.
“It was always going to be tough and I had to really work to get out in front. It was a good chance to work on everything I need to fine tune.
“We decided it was best to work on my outside overtakes, I could have nipped up the inside but I wanted to persevere and work on something that’s a bit of a weakness for me and it paid off.”
Christie will return to action on Thursday but it won’t get any easier, even with reigning champion and world record holder, China’s Wang Meng, absent through injury.
“This is a good chance to warm up and work on those weaknesses in a competition environment because the 500m is not so important to me. I’m very honest about using this a build into the other two events,” admitted Christie.
But she was left disappointed after seeing boyfriend Jack Whelbourne crash in the final of the 1500m after his stunning progress through the heats.
Whelbourne became the first British Olympic finalist in the sport for eight years but hobbled off the ice with an injured ankle.
“I got involved with the racing and, when I made my move, a block went under my skate, I lost control and it has given me a bit of a twisted ankle,” said Whelbourne.
“I don’t know what’s happening with my ankle now but I’m really pleased with my performance, especially setting a new British record in the first round.
“It’s quite a common accident in the sport, you have seven or eight people in a race with close overtakes and unfortunately it’s happened to me when I’m in my best form. I’m definitely getting back on the ice, if I can.”
Coach Nicky Gooch, the last British skater to win an Olympic medal in 1994, will now monitor Whelbourne’s fitness, with the 22-year-old also entered in the 500m and 1000m later in the Games.
“We don’t know what is wrong, maybe he’ll put some ice on it, he’ll be sore for a day and he’ll be good in a couple of days,” he said.
“He was in a good position, racing well and looking strong. He was trying to move himself up a little bit when a block got under his skate. It was out of his control.
“He skated very well but anything can happen in the race and that is what makes this sport so exciting.”
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