Winter Olympics 2014: Heartbreak for Great Britain's Elise Christie as silver medal lost in final crash

The Brit came second in the short track 500m speed skating final following a crash, but judges decided the collision was her fault

Sochi

Elise Christie apologised on Thursday night for instigating the spectacular pile-up that saw three of the four finalists in the 500m short-track speed skating end up in a heap on the ice before the first lap was even completed. Christie clambered back to her feet to cross the line in the silver medal position but moments later was disqualified.

The 23-year-old knew what was coming and as she finished she dropped her hands on to her knees and lowered her head. After returning to her room in the Olympic Village, Christie tweeted: “I totally respect the referee’s decision, sorry to the other finalists.”

Christie was a surprise qualifier for the final – her main event, the 1,000m, is next Tuesday – but the nature of short-track speed skating means that every race, especially over shorter distances, is wide open and here it was even more so in the absence of the injured Wang Meng, China’s three-time winner.

The 500m is the shortest event and, as the skaters tear around a tight course at speeds of up to 30mph, crashes are common. In 2002, Australia’s Steven Bradbury famously skated through unopposed from the back of the field after the other seven skaters had tumbled into a pile to win 1,000m gold.

Christie is a front-runner, a tactic designed to keep her out of trouble, and as the quartet rounded the second corner she bolted down the back straight and appeared to cut across Arianna Fontana of Italy. Both women hit the ice and took South Korea’s Park Seung-hi with them. Park was the first to get up again, only to lose her balance and pitch face-forward on to the ice. It left China’s Li Jianrou to ease to gold.

 

Behind her the others struggled back to their feet and completed the race in half-hearted fashion before the referee delivered his verdict. Nicky Gooch, Christie’s coach and the last Britain to win a short-track medal in Lillehammer in 1994, protested to the referee but the result stood.

“The Olympics always throws up controversial results,” said Gooch. “It is one of these things. It is a race – bumps happen – the referee watches the video and makes a call on it. We look at it from our perspective and you could argue it until the cows come home [but] it would make no difference. The way the referee looks at it, is that Elise instigated the crash. Clearly she was knocked off her feet by the Italian girl but the way the referee looks at it, it was that Elise instigated and caused the crash.”

Christie, a European champion and World Championship medallist, races again tomorrow in the 1500m before the 1,000m next week. Thursday’s outcome overshadowed how well she had skated through the three previous rounds to reach her first major 500m final.

“I am upset about it,” she said. “I did everything I could and it didn’t pay off. The referee has made a decision and I have to respect that. I do respect it, everyone will have a different opinion on what happened but that is the way short track works.”

James Woods failed to claim a medal in the freestyle skiing slopestyle. The former world No 1 qualified in third place for the final but was upstaged by the United States, who swept the board for their first skiing 1-2-3. Joss Christensen took gold with a breathtaking run scored at 95.80. Woods’ best was 86.60, though he was hampered by a hip injury sustained in training.

There was a huge injury blow for the host nation on Thursday night when favourite Evgeni Plushenko, Russia’s darling, pulled out of the figure  skating moments before it began in front of an expectant full house in the Iceberg Skating Palace.

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