Elise Christie (GBR) is driven by the heartache she suffered at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games following penalities in all three of her events. The 27-year-old Scot missed out on the medals in the 500m, 1000m and 1500m and is determined to make amends as she starts the chase for success at PyeongChang 2018.
With the Olympic season unfolding, Christie – this season’s overall world champion – is eager to create new, positive Games memories.
“I believe that I’m one of the most capable skaters here to go out medalling,” she said.
“I obviously have negative experiences to deal with from the past Olympics so I know it’s not a guarantee, I just have to keep my mindset at its best going into the Games, knowing that I can perform and that I’m capable. It doesn’t mean that I’m definitely going to do it but that I know that I can.”
“I’m definitely using it and trying to move on from it, progressing forward,” she said.
“I don’t really think about it much as I don’t think that it’s a good thing to focus on. I don’t see much learning from it, I did a few mistakes but they were mistakes because I was inexperienced. I’m a different person now, I just need to be this person now and not the person I was back then.”
A lot of things have changed in her life over the last Olympic cycle. In October she celebrates two years together with Hungarian short track star Shaolin Sandor Liu (HUN). Experiencing a tough phase of hard training with little time for anything but skating and sleep, Christie praises the support from Liu, who is going through the same process.
“Me and Shaolin now work really well, and I also train in two countries now which has been a big difference so there’s been a lot of things changing and I’ve grown up a lot”, said Christie, who splits her time between Hungary and Nottingham, England.
“It’s really good because we are opposite personalities. He’s very calm and laid-back and I’m probably the opposite – switched-on all the time. We support each other through it in different ways and he’s emotionally a very intelligent person so he can support me at times when I’ve been low from what happened in Sochi.”
”All her pain is coming out on me, I have to take everything,” her boyfriend jokes, adding:
“I’m trying to make her calm. She’s gets really stressed but she’s a really good athlete and I’m trying to help her 100 per cent as her boyfriend, trying to support her and make her feel better.”
2016’s 500m world champion Liu said they push each other through their current tough phase of training, hoping to peak at the Olympic Games.
I'm never disappointed in myself for failing, but I am disappointed when I hold myself back from being the best I can be! 'Give em hell, turn their heads Gonna live life 'til we're dead. Give me scars, give me pain Then they'll say to me, say to me, say to me There goes the fighter, there goes the fighter Here comes the fighter That's what they'll say to me, say to me, say to me, This one's a fighter' #athlete #winterolympics #hellopyeongchang #shorttrack #couplegoals
“She’s doing everything perfectly and trying to give it 100 per cent every day. It inspires me to try to do 110,” he said.
“Elise is really good mentally, she is really strong and she is physically a very strong woman, she has that powerful push every time. She’s the 500m world record holder, she’s really fast and I’m trying to help her as much as I can with the skating. I think she’s going to come with some surprises at the Olympics.”
However, not many Short Track fans would be surprised to see Christie win her first Olympic medal in PyeongChang. The ten-time European champion won the 1000m and 1500m gold medals at the 2017 Rotterdam World Championships. She is the first British and European woman to win the overall title.
“It felt like the first thing that’s been really, really good since Sochi and everyone at home were as happy as I was to see that the hard work had paid off. People at home know how hard I work and the things I have to overcome to get here. I don’t have girls to train with for example, like the Koreans do,” she said.
Anja Chong (MAL) is among the many Short Track skaters on the Audi ISU World Cup circuit who regard the hard-working Christie as a role model.
“She trains with the boys, she is very inspirational and a very powerful skater. And she’s got a really good work ethic – she is always the first one in and the last one out. I really admire her,” Chong said.
At the moment there is only one thing on her mind.
“I’m thinking about PyeongChang in every training session, and I’m driven towards it every day. I feel like this is the most tired I’ve ever been and I’ve really trained myself to the ground I guess,” she said.
“You don’t really have a life now. I don’t see my family, I don’t see my friends. It’s tough. We spend time at home or at the ice rink and that’s about it. There’s no life outside of the sport now.”
“But at the end of it there’ll be a massive peak I hope so it’ll all be worth it in the long run. I know I’m going to come out of this and hopefully be stronger than ever.”
She does need to get stronger. She admits the tough training has broken her down, causing her a torn quad and hip flexor in the first day of competition at the Audi ISU World Cup Short Track in Budapest in early October.
“It’s a shame because I felt I was in the best form of my life coming into the competition,” Christie said.
“But it’s okay – it’s a part of the sport and I have to accept it.”
She still managed to win a bronze in the 1000m competition in her second home town, competing in pain to accumulate as many Olympic qualification points as possible.
“If I’m coming third with a bad leg then hopefully there’s more to come when my leg is better in a few weeks. And things like these hopefully won’t happen at the Olympic Games because then I’ll be far more rested.”