It’s been a learning curve of a week in the world of Speed Skater Elise Christie, with Saturday’s 1500m heat disqualification her second at the Iceberg Skating Palace, curtailing her bid further for Olympic Glory.
This morning however she proved her determination and drive as she powered her way through to the quarterfinal of the 1000m event.
Way back in 2010, when Vancouver hosted the Winter Olympics, it was a mammoth of a task for Elise, where the then 20 year old Brit’s first meeting with the games finished with an 11th place position in the 500m short track event, 19th in the 1000m and 20th in the 1500m. At which point the Nottingham trained, Scottish skater, stated ‘I felt like that was it – that was all I would ever get from skating’, however progression would come.
In the meantime for Elise it would be back to the drawing board, and changes would need to be made in order to take her career to that next level.
A bronze medal at the European Championships prior to the Olympics in Vancouver in 2010 was perhaps a glimpse into what was to come, and despite being far back in the field in Canada, that may be the experience that is most pertinent in her development until now.
The road has been a lengthy one, as it is for anyone striving to be the best.
However in 2012/2013, the ISU Short-Track speed skating World Cup – stretching from October to February – saw Elise come out on top, and 1000m champion. Falling in her 500m event could have left Christie crestfallen, yet two second place finishes in Calgary and Montreal, in turn followed by a first place finish in Nagoya, along with third place in Shanghai, set Elise up for the two remaining events in Sochi and Dresden. Success in Sochi ironically came, and runner-up to Park-Sueng Hi, was backed up with a win in Dresden, Germany.
A World Championships in Debrecen in 2013 was a further opportunity to deliver. The second largest city in Hungary’s name was derived from the Turkic word ‘debresin’ which means ‘move’, and it corresponded with the career of Christie ‘moving’ and advancing at that, with a bronze medal in the 1000m emphasizing the tables turning.
Malmo proved noteworthy likewise, with a European Championships win in both 1000m and 1500m categories.
A winning mentality was brewing. Furthermore her 1000m crown from Sweden was retained in Dresden in 2014, and a reputation as British speed skating’s new ‘leading lady’ had arrived.
And with the Winter Olympics arriving just over a week ago, confidence was high, however what was to unfold was unexpected, yet mentality strengthening.
A penalty in the 500m final snowballed Christie from a silver medal position, to last. A clean start was followed by Christie coming up the inside, before eventually an opportunity arose to counter, and a gap that perhaps was more unrealistic than anticipated to capitalise upon, inadvertently caused Arianna Fontana of Italy and Park Seung-Hi, South Korea, to fall with Christie and the judges stated Elise was accountable. After she stated ‘I used my instinct and went for it’.
She added ‘I will use next day to get my head back together’ with the 1500 qualifying heats on the horizon.
Two days later the scenario occurred again and after crossing the finishing line in first place, judges deemed Christie had veered off of the track.
In the press conference she noted ‘I expected the decision the other day’ ‘today I have little idea what’s going on’ yet she had a chance to recoup before her next event.
It was a circumstance in which coach Nicky Gooch admitted the judges were talking ‘centimetres’.
Like in the speed skating World Cup back in 2012/13, when a fall in her 500m event could have left her less ‘relaxed’, this was a time to show mental growth, and sturdiness. The situations almost synonymous of three years ago and in adversity saw a rejuvenated Christie triumph.
Re-establishing confidence is a theme of athlete’s careers, and picking ones’ esteem off the canvas and going again can in time create the most satisfaction.
Her favorite discipline, the 1000m, was always a terrific prospect for Christie. An event she has had her most success, an event she feels most ‘relaxed’ in.
Displaying a diligence and backbone in this event today and in the coming days, to then take medal, could be career changing, although to finish outside of the medal places should be considered in hindsight a time of transition and an image in the mind to increase determination.
In the meanwhile, this morning’s heat win is a giant leap for Christie in rectifying results similar to her high expectations. This coming Friday preparation for the latter stages of the competition may show she could race three times in little over an hour if she progresses to the final.
With time on her side, the first British woman to win a World Championship medal in short-track has come a long way, and maybe with one step back, will see two steps forward.
What is your most notable individual sporting turnaround? How has Sochi impacted British Winter sports?