Sympathy for Christie – and faith the 'tough cookie' can bounce back

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XXIII Olympic Winter Games
Venue: Pyeongchang, South Korea Dates: 9-25 February
Coverage: Watch live on BBC TV, Red Button, Connected TVs, BBC Sport website and mobile app. Full coverage times

Elise Christie’s latest bid for an Olympic gold medal may have ended in heartbreak in South Korea, but those close to the short-track speed skater insist she can recover, amid messages of support from the British public.

Christie, disqualified in each of her three events in Sochi four years ago, was clipped by Yara van Kerkhof in Tuesday’s 500m final – slipping into the boards and finishing fourth.

The triple world champion will race again on Saturday in the 1500m, with the 1,000m to come on Tuesday.

Three-time Olympic short track speed skater Sarah Lindsay says Christie – regarded as Britain’s best medal hope in Pyeongchang – will be “devastated” but that the 27-year-old Scot remains a “tough cookie”.

“There’s been this whole build-up for this competition; it’s been hugely ‘her’ and she’s been the face of the Olympics,” Lindsay told BBC Sport.

“I think she does worry about letting other people down. She just wanted to go out there and give it her best performance – regardless of how well she did – and it wasn’t because it was taken away from her.

“That’s tough to deal with. If you make a mistake you can blame yourself, but when it’s somebody else it is difficult. She is really tough, she is a tough cookie, but also very emotional.”

What happened and what are the rules?

Having sailed through the qualifying rounds, Christie found herself trailing in the five-woman final and attempted to move into a medal position on the final lap.

Christie was briefly in third spot, but as she tried to hold her line her hand came in contact with Van Kerkhof’s boot which resulted in her careering into a wall.

The Scot was the last skater to cross the line, but home favourite Choi Min-jeong, who was beaten to the finish by Italy’s Arianna Fontana, was later disqualified, handing bronze to Canada’s Kim Boutin and bumping Christie up to fourth.

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So why was South Korea’s Choi disqualified, but Van Kerkhof not?

“On an overtake, going into the corner, you should be level with the person you are overtaking,” explained Lindsay, adding that a slip from Christie had given Van Kerkhof space to come through.

“The person you are overtaking has to give way and allow you to skate around the track – so they have to skate wide of you.

“Elise went into the corner in front then drifted wide mid-corner, which is an unusual thing to happen. She had a little bit of a slip and had two hands on the ice at one point.

“She recovered perfectly well, accelerated out of the corner, but her hand was still on the ice and it got taken away. It’s not something that would normally happen, so it’s a difficult thing to have a rule for.”

Christie can bounce back ‘after a good cry’

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Following the race, and with the memories of Sochi still vivid, a distraught Christie said she could “not see living with this feeling”.

But with the 1500m and 1,000m still to come, the British athlete has backed herself to “reset” and “come back again”.

Jo Eley, GB short-track speed skating’s academy head coach who has worked with Christie, says the Scot’s emotional reaction to her disappointing finish is a strength.

“The nature of our sport enables that, because we do multiple distances,” Eley told BBC Radio 5 live. “We are really used to dealing with the emotion on one day and resetting for another distance on another day.

“For Elise, she is the kind of person who needs a good cry to get it out of her system. For her, the worst thing someone could say is ‘there’s nothing to cry about’.

“Elise is the kind of person that wants to win so much, she is such a determined person, you actually don’t need to say much to her other than ‘we are racing again on Saturday’. She’ll want that medal.

“It is a strength of hers that she can get that emotion out there – it’s a release. For people who find it hard to process the emotion, it lingers a bit longer.”

‘We’ve role-played what happens if race one doesn’t go to plan’

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Performance director of British short-track speed skating Dr Stewart Laing believes Christie is more robust than she was in Sochi four years ago, when she suffered online abuse and death threats following a collision with a South Korean skater Park Seung-hi.

Laing says the team have a psychologist travelling with them and have planned for scenarios such as Tuesday’s fall.

“Unfortunately Elise has ended up in that soul-destroying fourth place,” Laing told BBC One. “We have brought our psychologist out with us – we have scenario-planned a lot of this.

“Elise is here to compete over three different distances. We have role-played what happens if the first one doesn’t go to plan, so we will regroup, we’ll refocus. We’ll give her time to just digest.

“Obviously there’s a load of emotion that goes into a) making an Olympic final and b) what’s just happened.

“We go back to some of the processes we have put in place – crucially, Elise is in a much stronger place, she is far more robust than last time.”

Your reaction on social media

Joanna Bellil: All or nothing for Elise Christie. Someone give her a big cuddle. Speed Skating is nuts!?!? Two more events to go. You are awesome. You can do this!!!

Gavin Cosgreave: That’s a real shame for Elise Christie but it’s one event! There is still two more events here for the taking. History cannot repeat itself again.

Nibbles: Chin up Christie, it wasn’t your fault. You were born to be a champion. You were meant to be at the Olympics! We are all proud of you and behind you 100%. Looking forward to watching you in the next event. Come on girl

Lukas: Feel for Elise Christie there, but I think she has something medals can’t buy, real courage, real heart, real bottle. To me those things shine through more than medals do and for that alone you’re already a champion in our hearts. Chin up, you’re awesome Elise!

Send your message for Elise

If you’d like to show your support for Elise Christie ahead of her remaining events please send a message via this link: https://ssl.bbc.co.uk/sport/contact

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