History already made by GB Short Track in Sochi

Sochi 2014 has so far been one of GB Short Track's most successful and memorable Olympic Winter Games since Nicky Gooch's bronze medal winning performance at Lillehammer in 1994. The quintet, led by three-time Olympian Jon Eley, has earned Team GB their first ever 1500m finalist in Jack Whelbourne, while Sochi starlet Elise Christie became the first British woman to reach an Olympic final.

With still one day of competition to take place on Friday, where Elise Christie will contest in the 1000m, the team already have much to celebrate. The squad of Jon Eley, Jack Whelbourne, Richard Shoebridge, Elise Christie and Charlotte Gilmartin began their Olympic campaign with the exciting news that GB Short Track's very own Jon Eley would be the Opening Ceremony Flagbearer for Team GB.

Olympic Village fun in Sochi

After the Opening Ceremony, Eley commented: "It was an incredible honour to lead our team in. Definitely one of the most special things I have ever experienced. The only time I got nervous was when they first handed me the flag before we entered the stadium.

"Once we were in there, though, I was just trying to make Britain proud and soak it all up. I was thinking about my family and all the people who have helped me in my career. The only problem was, it all went too fast. I wanted to take the team on another lap around the stadium, but I don't think they would have let us do that!"

The short track competition began three days later. Jack Whelbourne opened the action with some of his best ever performances in the 1500m, which included a British record in the first round. A confident and determined Whelbourne skated his way to the final, and only lost out on a chance at the podium after he stepped on a stray track marker and crashed out in the closing stages.

Whelbourne said after his final: "I got involved with the racing and, when I made my move, a block went under my skate, I lost control and it's given me a bit of a twisted ankle. I don't know what's happening with my ankle now but I'm really pleased with my performance today, especially setting a new British record in the first round."

Jack Whelbourne in the 1500m

Charlotte Gilmartin made it through the first round of the 500m on day one to reach the semi-final. Gilmartin, who is making her Olympic debut in Sochi, reached the semi-final in dramatic style by making an impressive undertake on the final bend to beat the second place skater into third place, despite having the hardest lane draw.

Charlotte said: "It was a tough heat and it was a tough draw on the outside but I got the job done. I knew I had to do some overtaking and I'm been practicing that in training and I've been working sure I've got that nailed. I loved racing here and it felt incredible to be out on the ice here."

Elise Christie has been making headlines since her controversial disqualification in the 500m final, which cost her a silver medal and resulted in her being demoted to 8th place, and her DNF in the heats of the 1500m. However the 23-year-old have shown true grit by bouncing back in style in the 1000m heats yesterday.

GB Short Track Performance Director Stuart Horsepool told media she was a 'tough cookie with Scottish grit' after a challenging few days at only her second Olympic Winter Games.

After her 1000m heat, Elise said: "I've had a few days feeling quite down. I was told about all the support back home and I smiled for the first time in a while. I'm really pleased with how I skated and thankful for all the support I've had. My coach wanted me just to enjoy it and get the love back for skating. He told me to use my instincts so I decided to sit at the back and then go clear at the end."

GB Short Track's other Olympic debutant, Richard Shoebridge, faced a challenging heat in the 1000m which resulted in him having to change tactics mid-race. Despite not progressing from the first round, Shoebridge said the experience was a moment he'd never forget. He added: 

"The crowd was phenomenal, especially racing against a home crowd favourite. It didnít 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 isnít great to begin with but it was an incredible experience.Ē

The short track concludes this Friday (21 February) with Jon Eley in the quarterfinals of the 500m and Elise Christie contending for her best performance yet in the 1000m:

16:30 - Menís 500m quarterfinals
16:44 - Ladies 1000m quarterfinals
17:15 - Menís 500m semifinals
17:23 - Ladiesí 1000m semifinals
17:46 - Menís 500m finals
17:56 - Ladiesí 1000m finals 
 

For more details on GB Short Track and its athletes at Sochi 2014, please visit www.gbshorttrack.org/sochi2014.

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