THE last four years of Elise Christie’s Winter Olympics career have been dominated by controversy, agony and despair.
Four years ago in Sochi, Russia, the Livingston speed skater missed out on three chances to win medals at the pinnacle of her sport after being disqualified in the 500m, 1000m and 1500m for infringing on other racers, which led to death threats online from angry fans.
And the heartache has continued in PyeongChang, Korea, with her fall in the 500m final last Tuesday being followed by another crash in Saturday’s 1500m semi-final.
It’s enough sporting tragedy to test the most steely athlete, but defiant Christie – who is the current speed skating world champion – is staying strong in the face of adversity and mounting social media criticism.
Countless comments and videos have been posted online mocking the West Lothian athlete.
Even a national newspaper writer put the bladed boot in – comparing the 27-year-old to hapless cartoon character Wile E Coyote.
“Watching Christie at these moments has become rather like seeing Wile E Coyote chase the Road Runner,” wrote Oliver Brown in The Telegraph.
“Such is the creeping sense of certainty that she will end up splattered against the nearest immovable object.”
Christie was taken to hospital after her latest fall, in Saturday’s 1,500m semi-final, with a badly jarred ankle.
Such travails prompted one online wag to suggest she take up “ice bowls” instead as a safer option – others that she hang up the leotard for good.
Yet criticism appears to only have spurred Christie on, determined to make tomorrow’s 1,000m race and a chance of redemption.
The short track speed skater posted a video from the Olympic Village as she worked out on an exercise bike, writing: “Working hard to turn this around ... 48 hours to get it sorted.”
Her boyfriend, Shaolin Liu, posted a picture of a smiling Christie on Instagram with her foot in a protective cast while Christie also posted a message on her own account.
She thanked the public for their support, saying: “I’m physically so strong and fast right now so fingers crossed I can make a recovery for my best event!”
And she retweeted one fan who slammed critics with: “She’s a World Champion! When did any of you get to represent your country at anything??”
Fans also took to social media to back the world champion – and defend her against the trolls.
“Elise Christie, the personification of courage and endurance. Please let her have some luck,” tweeted one.
And another wrote: “I honestly can’t believe that people send hate on here to Olympians like Elise Christie.
“Well I actually can, sadly. It’s a sign of the times, but just why!!”
Christie’s chances of leaving Pyeongchang with more than bruising and heartbreak are now hanging by a thread.
She is due to race again tomorrow but is battling against soft tissue damage to her ankle.