Elise Christie will trust instincts in bid for gold

Elise Christie practises at Iceberg Skating Palace in Sochi (Getty Images)

Elise Christie practises at Iceberg Skating Palace in Sochi (Getty Images)

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Elise Christie is a firm believer in karma, which helps when your chosen sport is short track speed skating.

What goes around, comes around seems a motto for one of the most fickle disciplines at the Winter Olympics, an event where even multiple world champions can be exposed in a flurry of flailing arms and legs.

So Christie, from Livingston, takes no pleasure from the news that China’s Wang Meng, the four-time Olympic and 18-time world champion, is absent from Sochi – even if her odds shortened dramatically as a result.

Wang, her nation’s most successful winter Olympian, sustained an ankle injury in training last month and despite an initial upbeat assessment was quickly ruled out of defending her three Olympic titles.

“I was pretty devastated for her, especially as it could possibly be her last Games,” said Christie, who took bronze behind Wang over 1000m at last year’s World Championships. “She’s a very respected athlete in the short track world. We were all upset for her. You are taking a big medal contender out of it, which does make your life easier but no one wants that.

“With someone that high up in the sport, it’s never nice. I’m not reading too much into the fact she’s not here, it’s just a massive disappointment for her and it wouldn’t be right to see it as a positive for me.”

Christie certainly knows firsthand about the peaks and valleys of her sport.

At last year’s Olympic qualifier in Russia she was hospitalised after a crash most watching thought had ended her Sochi ambitions, but 24 hours later she returned to the ice to win bronze.

At the recent European Championships she was left downbeat after failing to defend her 1500m title and yet rallied to win over 1000m the following day.

Other problems have also conspired against her.

She started the season with a dose of mumps, then the death of her grandmother days before she began racing affected her performances at World Cup events in Shanghai and Seoul.

“It’s not been the easiest year for me, but everyone has difficulties in their life, so it’s not that I’m in an usual position,” she added.

“It’s been tough, but I’d like to think I’ve come out at the end because I’ve spent the whole year fighting back from stuff.

“The Europeans was a confidence boost for me. Winning the gold medal there showed that perseverance can pay off.

“I’ve shown I can bounce back. If my first event here is terrible and everything goes wrong, it means absolutely nothing.

“Every day is a new day and you can get a completely different performance off me one hour to the next hour. It’s a great strength and a great weakness of mine.”

Christie likes to keep her tactics simple in a sport described as a human version of dodgem cars and doesn’t worry about being labelled one of the big medal hopes of the 56-strong British team lining up for today’s Opening Ceremony.

Four years ago she left Vancouver frustrated, while older heads said she should be proud to have qualified for her Olympic debut, the then teenager claimed she felt like a tourist, finishing 11th, 19th and 20th in her three starts.

“I have two simple plans when I start the race and pick one out of the two and hope it works,” she added.

“Just prior to the race I’m going to decide what I’m going to do and go with instinct.

“I don’t feel too much pressure, it’s just good to get the support. I think people understand this sport now and realise the things that can go wrong.

“You can’t base your dreams in this sport solely on an Olympic medal because you need things to go right on the day.

“I know that I’m driven, committed and I train really hard and I can’t base my whole career just on how I do in this competition.

“However, I’m definitely skating the best I’ve ever skated and you can’t say anymore than that when you arrive at the Olympics.”

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