GANGNEUNG, South Korea, Feb 13 (Reuters) - Four years ago British short track skating hope Elise Christie crashed or was disqualified in all three events at the Sochi Olympics, blaming everyone but herself along the way, and it was deja vu in Pyeongchang on Tuesday after another final disaster.
Christie, the 500 metres world record holder who set two Olympic records over the distance in qualifying this week, slid off the track while trailing in fourth in the five-woman final without ever working herself into a position to win it.
Italy’s Arianna Fontana took gold – having won five previous medals of a different hue - and after second-place finisher Choi Minjeong of South Korea was disqualified, Yara van Kerkhof of the Netherlands took silver and Canadian Kim Boutin bronze.
Christie, who bounced back from her triple Sochi setback to claim three world titles in the harum scarum sport last year, was left wondering, crying and blaming.
Her hopes had ended when Van Kerkhof caught her grounded hand a lap and a half from the end as the Briton desperately tried to make up ground following a stuttering start that left her in fourth place for most of the race.
Minutes later, as Fontana celebrated, Christie struggled to speak to a series of TV interviewers through floods of tears.
“I was knocked over, I didn’t fall on my own. I’ve worked so hard for the 500 and it was taken away from me,” said the Scot whose first DQ in Sochi was for knocking into Fontana. “I got crashed into in the semi and so got lane four (for the final)...I know it’s short track and you have to prepare for his but it hurts.
“It’s out of my control. I got knocked over and that’s that. When it’s something you’ve worked on, for someone to knock you over, it seems so unfair....at least I can go home and think I didn’t make any mistakes but it still sucks.” In Sochi and its aftermath Christie was similarly keen to lay the blame elsewhere, despite getting herself into a bad position in the third race - leading to her disqualification - with the same tactics she used in the first. She was also disqualified from her second race for inexplicably moving too far infield at the finish and missing the line.
At the time she said she received abuse on social media and for a long while said she considered giving up the sport.
But she fought back well to establish herself among the world’s best and one of Britain’s few realistic medal hopes in Pyeongchang.
Christie, who also raced in the Vancouver Olympics and is a 10-times European champion, can still deliver on that front but was not in the mood to think about it too much on Tuesday. “Hopefully, I can come back again, I can reset, I’ve got a week until my best distance (she races over 1000m and 1,500m),” she said. “But right now I can’t see living with this feeling.” (Writing by Mitch Phillips, editing by Ed Osmond)