Christie and Whelbourne take overall titles at Invitation Cup

The British short track speed skating squad claimed two overall titles at the Invitation Cup in Heerenveen, Holland this weekend (30 August- 1 September). Elise Christie and Jack Whelbourne both won two individual distances to finish first in the overall classification on points.

The event was a preparation competition for the squad ahead of the start of the ISU World Cup Series, which begins later this month in Shanghai (26-29 September).

Performance Director Stuart Horsepool said: “It was a good competition for the squad. The idea of a preparation competition is that the athletes get back into competing, because even though training preparation is of course vital, the nature of short track means that you also have to be sharp when you race.

“Jack and Elise did well this weekend, but true value of this competition is not the titles they have won here, but the race practice that they and the squad now take into the World Cup in a few weeks time.”

Christie took titles in both the 500 and 1000-metre events to finish just ahead of Jorien Ter Mors (NED) and Bernadett Heidum (HUN) in the overall classification. Christie’s team mate, Charlotte Gilmartin, performed consistently in her individual events to place her 4th in the overall classification.

Christie said: “The first competition back is always going to be challenging because you are getting used to skating again and you don’t really know how the other nations are going to skate. It was fun to be back racing and also good to try some new things, like skating from the back.”

Jack Whelbourne, who is originally from Nottingham, won both the 1000 and 1500-metre events to finish first overall ahead of Freek Van Der Wart (NED) and Viktor Knoch (HUN). Whelbourne said:

“It was great to be back competing and to get a good result. I’ve been skating well in training so I was feeling confident before, but this is just our prep competition so I will try to take as much as I can from here and build on it going into Shanghai.”

The men’s relay team also took gold in both of the 5000-metre relay events, beating strong skating nations the Netherlands and Hungary in Final 1, and Hungary and Poland after the Dutch were penalised in Final 2.

Horsepool added: “The men in the relay did well to win against the Dutch in Final 1, it was very close and they beat them on the finish by just 0.01 of a second. Even though they performed well, racing here has been valuable because we have been able to identify some areas we can work on ahead of the World Cup Series.

“The women also competed in the relay and finished third behind the Netherlands and Hungary, but significantly ahead of Poland who are one of the teams they are up against in qualification for Sochi. The girls showed that they still have a lot to work on in their relay, but they will also take a lot of important lessons away from Holland.”

There were also top ten overall classification finishes from Richard Shoebridge and Jon Eley, who finished eighth and ninth respectively.

The squad now begin their final preparations for the opening ISU World Cup on the 26-29 September, followed by the second stage in Seoul on the 3-6 October.