National success helps Elise banish her Sochi heartache

Elise Christie (Getty Images)
Elise Christie (Getty Images)
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Elise Christie dominated the opening of the new short track speed skating season by winning the National Championships in the 500m, 1000m and 1500m for the fourth consecutive year.

The 23-year-old skater from Livingston oozed class in Nottingham after a short break from the sport to recover from the most testing period in her career. Christie’s Olympic heartache in February, where she missed out on a medal, created a huge amount of controversy in the days that followed.

However, she responded superbly to the furore and criticism that followed by winning silver in the 500m at the World Championships in Montreal in March before her national exploits just three days ago.

“I’m really pleased I won every distance because when it’s national competition, it can be that bit harder,” Christie told the Evening News. “It’s the first off-season where I’ve really not trained but I’ve managed to do this since I’ve been racing senior so it’s my fourth time I’ve held all three titles. The World Championships are my main goals most years but I still regard the Nationals highly – it means you are the best in Britain at this moment in time.”

Christie has enjoyed some time off, with a holiday to Florida with boyfriend and GB speed skater, Jack Whelbourne, the highlight. Despite passing out on one of the theme park’s notoriously fast rollercoasters, the break was just what she needed to reinvigorate her enthusiasm and passion for her sport.

Reflecting on the disappointment of the Sochi Games three months ago, where she was disqualified in all three of her events and subsequently encountered a torrent of abuse on Facebook and Twitter, Christie said: “I think I’ll eventually forget about those Games and will start looking forward. I’m not over it yet, but I’m getting on with life. Sometimes when I’m a bit distant or start daydreaming then I will think about it – it’s hard to explain. Sochi was the first time I’ve really been in the public eye and it was so negative. It was difficult and I found it really hard to believe in myself. Yes, I probably did make a mistake in the races but, at the same time, I don’t think it was completely my fault.”

“A lot of people were having a negative input saying you can’t finish a race, but I just want to get out there and show them otherwise. I’ve had a lot of support and winning that World Championship medal was like saying thanks to everyone.”

The Scot also returned home to West Lothian for a spell to escape being under the microscope. “It was good to come home,” she explained. “There were a lot of people who recognised me and spoke to me, which was nice. Livingston isn’t a big place but my friends and family are always going to support me, so I really enjoyed my time back up here.”

Christie is preparing for a new experience this weekend as she undertakes a 117-mile road cycle from Leeds to Harrogate on Sunday, when she hopes to complete a replication of stage one of this year’s Tour de France which begins in Yorkshire in July.

“The people as part of my Sky Sports Scholar suggested I take part,” Christie said. “It’s a fresh challenge, but I also want to get my aerobic fitness up. I am fit in a skating sense, but this is a chance to improve my recovery rate as well. It’s not going to be easy as there are quite a few hills, but I’m looking forward to testing myself.”