Ambitious Christie goes for broke in Olympic final

Elise Christie became the first British woman to compete in an A Final at an Olympic Winter Games after she stormed through the 500m qualifying rounds this morning. Christie showed intention from the gun, but in the opening laps suffered a collision while attempting to undertake Arianna Fontana of Italy, causing a crash between her, Fontana and Seung-Hi Park of South Korea.

Despite getting back on her feet and crossing the line in silver medal position, Christie was denied the medal after being given a penalty. She was consequently demoted to eighth place, below the competitors competing in the B Final.

Christie, 23, said: "Obviously I am quite upset about it. I did everything I could and it didn’t pay off. I just didn’t want to be the one in third place getting attacked at the end so I tried to move up early when I had the chance. I had the speed but unfortunately we all went down. The referee has made a decision and I have to respect that. Everyone will have a different opinion on what happened but that is the way short track works.”

Team GB Short Track coach Nicky Gooch comment on the incident: “The Olympic games always throws up controversial results. It is one of these things. It is a race – bumps happen – the referee watches the video and they make a call on what they think. We look at it from our perspective and you could argue it until the cows come home it would make no difference. You can appeal it, you can make an official written warning but it is not going to make a difference. The way the referee looks at it, is that Elise instigated the crash.”

Charlotte Gilmartin drew an outside lane in her 500m quarterfinal and could not match the start of her competitors, placing her at the back of the pack. On finishing fourth, she commented: “My weakness has always been my start and I have been trying to work on that. I wasn’t with them from the beginning and they are some of the fastest girls in the world. I was a bit disappointed but I gave it everything I had.”

In the men’s events Jack Whelbourne returned from the ankle injury he sustained on Monday in the 1500m final, to compete in the 1000m heats. Despite not being at 100% fitness following the fall, Whelbourne performed courageously and only narrowly missed out on a place in the quarterfinals, finishing behind Canadian Charles Hamelin and Tianyu Han of China, who took gold and silver respectively in the 1500m earlier in the week.

Whelbourne, 22, said: “I think that level of racing would have been tough regardless of my ankle. I have been off the ice since the A final, but I put out the best performance I could. The guy [Eduardo Alvarez] knew I was weak on my right foot and he just tried to hold me on the outside and that takes a lot of pressure to keep me there. It was either me or him who was going to qualify and this time it was him. I think I am in pretty good form, injured or not injured, but now I am out I can move forward with my rehab and hopefully I can be on the ice a lot more before the 500m.”

Jon Eley and Richard Shoebridge also competed in the heats of the 1000m. Both finished in fourth place and do not progress through to the quarterfinals on Saturday. Eley now looks forward to his preferred distance, the 500m, on Tuesday where he will hope to improve on his 5th and 6th place finishes at the last two Olympic Winter Games in Turin and Vancouver respectively.

For Eley, it was the first time he has competed in an individual event at an international competition since the Olympic qualifying events in November. He said: “It was a good run out, a good taste of the atmosphere and good to learn a bit more about the ice in the competition environment, but it is always disappointing to get beat. Now I just keep ticking over the training, recover from this and then switch my mind to the 500m.”

Shoebridge, who today made his Olympic debut, performed well after being forced to change tactics mid-race. He commented: “It was a lot different than I was expecting. The crowd was phenomenal, especially racing against a home crowd favourite – that added a little bit more pressure on the top of that. It didn’t go as well as I would have expected or could have wanted, but it was a pretty aggressive race. I got my skate kicked halfway through the race, which isn’t great but the race was fun.”

Short track speed skating will next take place on Saturday 15 February with Team GB represented in the following events:

10:00 - Ladies’ 1500m heats: Elise Christie, Charlotte Gilmartin
11:16 - Ladies’ 1500m semifinals
12:09 - Ladies’ 1500m finals