European Championships underway in Dresden

Britainís short track speed skaters faced strong competition on the opening day of the European Championships in Dresden as Europeís finest gear up for Sochi 2014. All four of Britainís individual competitors finished in the top 16, while both relay teams won their heats and will progress through to the semi-finals tomorrow. 

Elise Christie, 23, progressed through to the final of the 1500m with ease, but finished 4th after her tactics in the final allowed the Netherlands skater Jorien ters Mors to control the race and take gold. Meanwhile Christieís Sochi teammate, Charlotte Gilmartin, produced a time close to her best in the semi-final against Vancouver 2010 medallist Arianna Fontana of Italy, and finished 12th overall having placed 4th in the semi-final.

Performance Director Stuart Horsepool commented: ďIím pleased with how the squad has performed today. Elise skated very well in the earlier rounds and tried some different tactics in the final. This time they didnít pay off, but every race is a learning curve in short track. Charlotte skated well today and Iím looking forward to see what the skaters can do in the 500m tomorrow.Ē

Gilmartin, 23, said: ďIím pretty happy with my performance because that was around the third fastest time Iíve ever skated in competition and I still felt I had more in the tank. I couldnít quite get around the other girls in the closing stages, but Iím pleased that Iím skating times like that now when we are not quite at our peak.Ē

After her disappointment in her individual, Christie bounced back 30minutes later to lead the womenís relay to a British record by 0.2, beating the Sochi-bound Russian team in the process. Christie along with Charlotte Gilmartin, Alex Stanley and Kathryn Thomson beat their previous record they set just two months ago at the second ISU World Cup in Seoul. Britainís men also won their heat and tomorrow will face Germany, the Netherlands and France in the semi-final.

Horsepool added: ďElise showed great tenacity to come back and produce another British record with the womenís relay immediately after her 1500 final. They beat a strong Russian team in their heat, and went faster than Italy, Hungary and the Netherlands who all qualified for Sochi.Ē

Shoebridge produced his best 1500m tactical performance of the season, beating home-crowd favourite Paul Herrmann of Germany in the heats to reach the semi-final and finish 14th overall. Whelbourne however drew a tough semi-final against Thibaut Fauconnet (France), Niels Kerstholt (Netherlands) and Victor An (Russia), all frequent medallists on the world circuit. Despite being in contention, it was a scrappy race and Whelbourne was taken down in a four man crash in the closing stages, resulting in a 15th place finish for the Nottingham born skater.

Day two tomorrow sees Whelbourne, Shoebridge, Christie and Gilmartin compete in the 500m, and both male and female relay teams lining up for the semi-finals of the 5000m and 3000m relay respectively.

For live result from the European Championships, please visit shorttrack.sportresult.com/.

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