Elise Christie, in case you hadn’t heard, is a British short-track speed skater. She’s won 29 major tournament medals, 13 of which have been gold. Last year in Rotterdam she became the first non-Asian skater in 23 years to win an overall world title. When talking about medal hauls, that is quite tasty.
Generic sports fans only hear about her bad times. There aren’t many bad times, as she is generally considered to be the fastest woman on ice, but when they do happen they are in full public glare, in front of a global audience who don’t seem to be aware of the subtleties (or brutality) of short-track skating.
In Sochi four years ago, she was disqualified in all three disciplines and the victim of cyber bullying, on the receiving end of frightful abuse from South Koreans who accused her of knocking out their favourite, Park Seung-Hi. It was a nightmare for a 23-year-old who had had high hopes of a medal. She left Russia without any love whatsoever.
That terrific World Championships in the Netherlands made her the poster girl for this games in many people’s eyes. She was reborn, a new heroine for the social media age, rather than a victim of it. Unfortunately, the frozen maiden of 2014 has returned. Unlike Jessica Ennis at London 2012, the Livngston lass hasn’t been able to deliver. It’s been a fantasy spoiled in epic, Voldemort proportions.
This time, her fifth major blow out in five major Olympic events was simply a (bloody) mistake as she was bladed cutting across a Chinese competitor on the final corner of the 1500 metres semi-final. Her public agony was then carried dramatically onto a different level by way of a stretcher.
BBC presenter Eilidh Barbour blurted: “I can’t cope with this Elise Christie Winter Olympic heartache”, while the corporation’s website had set up a message board of support for the Scot a few days before when she tearfully crashed out of the 500 metres sprint final to finish fourth. It emoted: “The 27-year-old has faced injury, disqualification, crashes and even death threats on her way to the 2018 Winter Olympics. We asked for your messages of support… and were inundated.” The current published total is 11, but we get the drift.
Sporting tragedy is gut-wrenching for those who have invested so much in the story. Christie’s is more epic than Jimmy White losing six world snooker finals. All the Whirlwind did was twitch on the black ball in the final frame against Stephen Hendry. Christie just keeps falling over on ice. It’s disturbing to witness, but the eulogies are unbearably mawkish. This is not Princess Diana. This is the supposed Queen of the Ice feeling the stress.
The Winter Olympics needs a bit of drama for Great Britain with Torvill and Dean a distant memory. Sadly, Hollywood will probably have to put the Elise Christie story back in the shed until 2022 for a happy ending. Then again, I, Tonya is a good watch…