Winter Olympics 2014: British skater Elise Christie falls victim to 'cyber sledging'

Twitter threats for 23-year-old speed skater after crash

The British skater Elise Christie has become the latest athlete to fall victim to cyber bullying. The 23-year-old received threatening messages via Twitter after causing a crash during a short-track speed-skating race in the Winter Olympics.

Christie, inset, one of Team GB's main medal hopes in Sochi, was disqualified from Thursday's 500m final after being held responsible for tripping up two rivals, the Italian Arianna Fontana, and Park Seung-hi from South Korea.

Her tumble did not cost the Koreans a medal, but it did deny Park any chance of the gold. There were only four racers in the final; with Christie's disqualification for instigating the crash the remaining three finalists were all guaranteed a medal. Park took bronze.

The subsequent messages, described as "pretty unpleasant" and "unsavoury" by British officials, were deleted, but are believed to have originated from Korea, where the sport of short-track speed skating is a national obsession.

Christie raced again in the 1,500m and her nightmare of a Games continued as she was penalised for an infringement and relegated to last place.

Afterwards she admitted the abuse had hurt her. It is understood to have impacted on her performance, and her training, since the messages were posted following her race on Thursday. The messages and her account were deleted on Friday after consultation with her coaches.

She was close to tears as she spoke after her race. "I have had a few people threatening me," she said. "It's been a tough few days."

 

Christie has her strongest event to come this week, the 1,000m, in which she had high hopes of winning a rare British medal. To add to her miserable experience in Sochi, her boyfriend, Jack Whelbourne, injured his ankle in a crash of his own during the men's 1,500m final last week.

Christie's abuse follows anonymous online attacks on Olympic gymnast and Dancing on Ice star Beth Tweddle, who said internet trolls made cruel jibes about her looks. She deactivated her Twitter account last month. Gold medal swimmer Rebecca Adlington and diver Tom Daley also reported sustained abuse during the 2012 Olympics.

A spokeswoman for the British Olympic Association said: "Like a lot of young people, [Elise] is very active on social media. I've not spoken to her directly but I know after her race, she was very upset about what happened on the track. I think the Twitter stuff has rolled into that.

"So a decision was taken, with Elise’s consent, to take her Twitter site down so she can better focus on the competition. We didn't want it to become a burden or a distraction."

This is Christie's second Olympics, but at the age of 23 she is still young for the sport. The long-term aim is for her to win a medal at the 2018 Winter Olympics – in Korea.

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