Those damned Olympic Gods, from Apollo to Zeus they must have taken a tremendous dislike to Elise Christie, writes James Toney in PyeongChang.
For those who believe you can’t cheat fate this story can go one of two ways. Either Christie will complete the ultimate redemption story and win 1000m gold this Thursday.
Or she’s destined never to win an Olympic medal. Pray to Mount Olympus it’s not the latter.
Christie’s status as Britain’s unluckiest Olympian was further underlined after a fall in the semi-final of short track speed skating’s 1500m. To add insult to the injury, she was disqualified as she lay prone on the ice.
There were tears again, this time of pain as she was taken away in an ambulance for scans on an ankle injury.
“I’ve spoken to Stewart Laing, the performance director, and it’s too early to tell anything for sure and know exactly what the story is,” said Team GB chef de mission Mike Hay.
“It’s hard to write this, it’s tough. But right now it’s about Elise’s health. She was in a great form and I saw her a couple of times and she was in a great place, it’s just incredibly unfortunate.”
Anything can and does happen in short track. Expect the unexpected. Prepare for the improbable.
Within moments of Christie leaving the ice her Hungarian boyfriend Shaolin Liu was in action. He helped rebuild her confidence after the death threats that came from Korea after she took out their leading hope at the last Olympics in Sochi.
Liu, a world champion, went one better – he took out two Koreans. Sometimes you couldn’t make it up.
“We had a phone call and she told me she’s fine. She’s a tough woman, she will be okay,” said Liu.
And within minutes the news was confirmed by British Olympic Association officials that an x-ray on her right ankle had revealed no broken bones.
“Team GB medical staff will continue to assess her over the coming days,” said a team spokesman.
“Elise wants to thank everyone for their support and the hospital staff who assessed her so quickly.”
Christie came through her 1500m heat in style, dominating the race and progressing with limited fuss. If only it was always like this.
Her six person semi-final was packed with talent, including the world record holder and home crowd favourite Choi Min Jeong, with only the top two advancing.
Christie found herself needing to make a move on the final bend to get into the mix and her move sent China’s Li Jinyu spinning with her into the barriers.
Team-mate Charlotte Gilmartin also slid out of her semi-final and will play a vital role in picking up Christie, who will be a bridesmaid at her wedding later this year, in the days ahead.
“It looks like it’s her foot, ankle, but I haven’t had a chance to speak to her,” she said.
“I’m just hoping it’s an impact thing that’s shocked her because she doesn’t stay down for nothing. It’s horrendous and I really feel for her. I just hope it’s nothing major and the 1000m is all to play for.
“It’s so hard to watch. When you are going around the outside you don’t have time.
“You want to hit the barrier with the biggest part of your body but if you fall on the outside you can end up in awkward position which is when injuries occur because you hit it at such speed.”
Christie’s season has already been disrupted by injury, with a thigh problem forcing her to skip several World Cup events.
But she insisted she was back to full fitness in PyeongChang and had trained with a smile on her face, despite her fall and fourth place in the 500m final earlier this week.
Time will tell now whether she will be back on the ice for Tuesday’s 1000m qualifying, the event which she claimed was her principle target after winning the world title in Rotterdam last year. If she qualifies, she’ll have more time to rest that ankle before Thursday’s finals.
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