Elise Christie is loving being back at the Olympics – four years after she left them in tears.
It remains to be seen whether she’ll feel the same way come tomorrow. The Scot has had her share of injury problems this season, skipping a number of World Cup events to focus on winning the only prize in short-track speed skating that has alluded her.
World and European titles, world records, World Cup victories, last year’s sportswoman of the year title – she’s been there and got the medal, with one very notable exception.
Livingston-born Christie looked brilliant in her 500m heat on Saturday, firing off the line and leading from start to finish to clock a new Olympic record. And she later admitted the performance had her stunned.
“I looked at the time and I thought ‘wow, that’s quick’,” she said. “People are all telling me that I’m favourite for the 500m but it was the one event that I didn’t win a medal in at last year’s World Championships.
“I know I’m the world record holder but I’ve been struggling with my start and that’s so important when you are only racing for 40 seconds.
“I had the top Korean and Chinese girl in my heat and only two of us could go through. I knew if I beat them then that is one less rival to worry about for the next round.
“I’m really pleased with that time, it shows that I’m in the sort of form I want to be in, especially as I wasn’t going 100 per cent.
“You can train, train and train but it’s only when you are out there racing that you actually know how good you are feeling.
“That was my best start in years and that is really going to help my nerves. If I can get a start in the next round it will really help my confidence.
“Obviously, it’s all about the gold but, if I can beat the world record too, that would be awesome.”
Most short-track championships are over in a weekend but the Olympic format is drawn out, with five days racing over a 12-day period.
“Some guys really struggle with it, I absolutely love it,” added Christie, who is back in action tomorrow. “I’ll be training every day and keeping my feet on the ice but I’ll be taking my brain easy too, relaxing my brain is what I need!”
One way she will relax is spending time with boyfriend Shaolin Liu – who can certainly empathise the pressure of expectation she currently feels.
Liu is also a world champion and is viewed as Hungary’s leading hope for these Games.
“It’s always pretty hard watching Elise,” he said. “I was in the stands shouting. I know she couldn’t hear anything but I couldn’t stop myself. She’s giving me a lot of power when she’s doing good so I’m cheering out for her.
“I know she was nervous but she’s getting better, I’m teaching her. I think it’s a really good thing to be in the same sport and giving advice to each other.
“I remember in 2016 before that season started she said we’re going to both be world champions together.
“I won my world title that year but she won her three 12 months later, that really annoyed her. I’ve always said the better I do, the better she does.
“We’re trying to help each other. We’re seeing each other when we can in the village but we’re both very focused. We can celebrate Valentine’s Day when we have finished, hopefully both with Olympic gold medals.”
• Watch Elise Christie go for gold tomorrow on Eurosport 1. Don’t miss a moment of the Olympic Winter Games on Eurosport and Eurosport Player. Go to www.Eurosport.co.uk
MUSGRAVE EYES PODIUM FINISH
Andrew Musgrave has vowed to crack the podium after nearly pulling one of the great Olympic shocks.
The cross-country skier from Huntly finished seventh in yesterday’s 30km skiathlon, Britain’s best-ever result in the sport.
Now it’s all about the medals when he competes in his signature 15km event this Friday.
“It’s a decent result but I’m not at the Olympics to come seventh. I’m here to fight for a win,” said Musgrave, who finished fourth at last year’s World Championships.
“If you told me ten years ago I would be seventh in the Olympics, I wouldn’t have thought I would be disappointed with it. But that is what makes an athlete – you want more.
“I’m a little disappointed, I felt really good. I felt awesome with about a lap and a half to go and I felt that I would be in the fight for the victory. That’s why I do this. I think all the guys at the top, if you don’t believe you can win, then you’re not going to spend the thousands hours out training, suffering every week through interval sessions and pushing our pain limits every session.”