By Neil Leverett
- Elise Christie crashes out in women’s 500m short-track final finishing fourth, as Arianna Fontana wins Gold
- Briton has two more chances for a medal in 1500m and 1000m
- XXIII Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea run until February 25
PYEONGCHANG, SOUTH KOREA – Great Britain’s Elise Christie suffers further woe after crashing out in the final of the women’s 500m short-track speed skating final, as Italy’s Arianna Fontana takes Olympic Gold after Korea’s Choi Minjeong is penalised.
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No Christie retribution – yet?
It was a familiar tale of frustration for Britain’s Elise Christie on Day Four of the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, as the Scot crashed out in the final of the women’s 500m short-track speed skating final.
Having progressed through Tuesday’s quarter-final and semis’, the Scot was drawn in Lane 4 in the final and found herself chasing a medal in the closing stages – with the Brit crashing out trying to chase down a medal.
An again distraught Christie like four years ago in Sochi, must now gather herself for her remaining two competitions later in the Games.
Going in the second quarter-final after breaking the Olympic record on Saturday, Christie was this time a spectator as the Briton watched Marianne St. Gelais penalised in the opening heat, after the Canadian was too aggressive in battling for position on the opening bend – despite the race having to be re-started due to a the crash.
The Scot put what she had seen behind her as she slid out onto the Gangneung Arena ice. Unlike in her opening heat, Christie was beaten to the lead by St. Gelais’ team-mate Kim Boutin, but hung back to make a precise overtaking manoeuvre on the inside to swing into the lead.
The Brit then took control of the race, but as both Boutin and Andrea Keszler slid to the ice behind her on the final bend, Christie may have been fearing the worst. Clearly ahead of the two skaters however, Christie was on this occasion away from prying eyes of the watching officials, and again clocked an Olympic record for here second consecutive race in a time of 42.703 and into the semi-finals ahead of her within the hour.
Briton sneaks into final
Having avoided rival Arianna Fontana, Choi Minjeong, Fan Kexin and Sofia Prosvirnova in a separate and stacked semi-final, Christie was handed a favourable draw after clocking the fastest time earlier on but knew she could take nothing for granted.
As Minjoeng and Fontana advanced, the 27-year-old Nottingham skater then turned here attention to her own battle. Again Christie was forced to play catch-up and on attempting to to take leader Boutin again as she had in the quarters, was met was skaters on her outside.
Christie slipped inside the Canadian to take the lead, but was forced wide temporarily. As the China’s Qu Chunyu slid to the ice, Yara van Kerkhof took the lead on the inside with a battle royale for the top two spots into the final.
The Dutchwoman rounded the final bend with both Christie and Boutin chasing her down, and in a photo finish held off the Briton by 4cm on the line. With judges conferring after the race for the official result, British fans – and Christie – held their breath.
It was however Chunyu who was penalised, with Boutin advancing also, with five skaters vying for Olympic gold. Part two of the job was done for Christie, could the Scot steel herself for one final push onto the podium?
Another tale of woe for Christie
All that stood between Christie and Golden retribution were four-and-a-half laps of the Gangneung Ice Arena and four other skaters; An Italian, a Dutchwoman, a Korean and a Canadian for PyeongChang glory.
It was a tough lane assignment for the Briton in Lane 4, and knew she would at some point have to use her superior speed on the outside to make a decisive move. It was set to be a competitive and potentially explosive encounter once more.
After becoming boxed in at the opening corner, Christie did not find the room to get out to the front and found herself trailing with two laps to go. The world-record holder Brit was unable to catch both Fontana and Choi who blasted away.
In a vain attempt to gain ground in fourth position, the Brit tried to swoop in on the inside. As Boutin slid out, the Scot was forced wide and trying to keep her feet, her hand was clipped by van Kerkhof and the Brit stumbled and crashed to the barriers.
Finishing eventually in fifth place a good minute after the rest of the field, Christie was quick to exit the ice in tears once again. There was further controversy as after Choi won a photo finish, the Korean was disqualified to the dismay of the home support, handing Fontana the Olympic title – with Christie finishing fourth.
The Briton was again visibly in pieces as she spoke to the media, but with two competitions left in South Korea – including her favourite 1000m – the chance to still grab a medal exists.
Elise Christie goes in the heats of the women’s 1000m short-track speed skating on Saturday morning, February 17 from 10am UK time at the Gangneung Ice Arena in Pyeongchang.
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