Three years ago, Elise Christie was contemplating giving up the sport of speed skating altogether. Now she is the best in the world at her sport.
She becomes the first British woman to achieve such a feat on the ice and the Livingston-born athlete now goes into next year’s Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang as the favourite to lift gold across several distances.
Mention of those Games conjures up some galling memories for Christie. Back in the Russian city of Sochi in the 2014 Games, she was disqualified from all three disciplines – 500m, 1000m and 1500m – through various track incidents that left her “heartbroken and devastated”. She received abuse on social media and even death threats that forced her to contemplate her future in the sport.
Thankfully, those days are long behind her. Christie was in scintillating form in the Netherlands, claiming gold in the 1000m on Saturday and the 1500m on Sunday. She also took bronze in the 3000m and made the final in the 500m, although she finished last of the four finalists in that discipline.
Before the weekend’s action in Rotterdam, Christie had claimed eight silver and bronze medals in the Worlds, but never gold. The fact that she did it here was even more impressive considering she has had an injury-ravaged campaign and suffered concussion only a few months ago.
Her performance on Saturday in the 1500m was very classy. She had to move a lapped opponent out of the way on the final corner and pushed her skate first across the line ahead of Marianne St-Gelais of Canada and Shim Suk-hee of the much-fancied South Koreans. Defending champion Choi Min-jeong, also of South Korea, finished a distant fifth.
In Sunday’s 1000m final she excelled again, finishing ahead of She finished ahead of St-Gelais in second place and Suzanne Schulting of Holland in third.
Christie had been focusing on shorter distances, in particular the 500m. She set a new world record across that distance of 42.335 seconds earlier this season and she reached the final here and a medal was anticipated. However, she finished last of the four competitors, recording a time of 43.835 seconds, with China’s Kexin Fan winning in 43.605.
That minor disappointment will be forgotten by the rest of her achievements. “I never expected to win the 1500m,” she said after that win. Much is expected of her now as the world champion.