Christie's redemption dream comes crashing down; now, for the rebuild

From ESPN - February 13, 2018

GANGNEUNG, South Korea -- Redemption will have to wait. For now, there is just devastation. As Great Britain's Elise Christie did a solo lap assessing her fourth-place finish having crashed out in the final of the 500-meter short-track speedskating, her arms fell to her knees, back hunched, momentarily wiping away tears.

"I have worked so hard for that moment out there and I got knocked over," Christie said afterwards. "It's so out of my control but almost that feels worse -- at least I can go home and think I did not make any mistakes but it still sucks." Going home, in this case, is back to the Olympic Village, she still has two further shots at the medal she so covets having suffered further sporting heartbreak in Sochi in the lottery that is short-track speed skating.

The exact moment she was knocked over remained ambiguous in the immediate aftermath of the race. Christie was unsure -- "I got hit and I could not hold it" -- while speedskating performance director Stewart Laing held back from pointing the finger of blame, instead waiting to deliver a post-mortem once he had watched back the race. He said they'd watch it from a technical point of view, rather than determining Christie's misfortune but now comes the rebuilding process.

With two events to go -- the 1,000 and 1,500 -- any thoughts of this being another tale of Olympic heartbreak for the affable reigning world champion are extremely premature, but there is an inner drive to repay the faith shown in her over the last four years since Sochi. Four years ago she won silver in Sochi, before being disqualified, blamed for a crash which took out Park Seung-Hi. Abuse followed, but then came catharsis and confidence. The world record to her name, two Olympic records set in qualifying for the final, that beacon of hope burned bright in the hotbed of short-track but then rhyme, reason, form, expectation, hope were all thrown into the barriers.

Christie had spoken of nerves in the build up to Tuesday evening's competition. She knew the public expectation, or hope, was she would deliver a medal here in Pyeongchang -- she has the pressure of being the main gold medal hope here.

The quarterfinals had gone to plan. Falling behind into second she broke the Olympic record to storm into the semifinals. Things were a little more awkward there, qualifying for the final in second place and fourth fastest out of five finalists, but she still looked relaxed, joking with her partner -- Hungarian short-track speedskater Shoulin Liu -- before heading down the tunnel to mentally reset and refocus on the final. Home favourite Choi Minjeong set the benchmark with an Olympic record: challenge laid down, South Korean speed skating fervour growing by the crossover.

As she lined up for the final, Christie was the only one of the five finalists not to break out into a beaming smile as she was introduced to the crowd; it was more a reluctant recognition. She started awkwardly, shunned to the back of the pack, but charged into medal contention with two laps to go only to then crash out. The cruel irony later was had she finished fourth in the race proper, then she would have won bronze as Choi was disqualified. Instead, because she completed her lone finish, she has fourth against her name.


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