Turkish delight for gold medallist Elise Christie

HAVE WINGS WILL FLY -- Elise Christie on her way to two more medals at the World Cup. (PHOTO BY@ David Davies/PA Wire)
HAVE WINGS WILL FLY -- Elise Christie on her way to two more medals at the World Cup. (PHOTO BY@ David Davies/PA Wire)

The sparkling spell of form since the start of 2015 for Hucknall-based short-track speed-skater Elise Christie just got better and better.

For she pocketed two more medals, including a gold, at the final round of the World Cup, which was held at Erzurum in Turkey last weekend.

Now our ice queen is ready to tackle the hottest company of all in the World Championships, which take place in Moscow, Russia from Friday 13th to Sunday 15th March.

“Elise skated fantastically well in Turkey,” said GB short-track national coach Nicky Gooch, who used to race alongside another top Hucknall-based speed-skater, Jamie Fearn, in the 1990s.

“Her results across the six-round World Cup series have improved consistently and she can now head to Moscow encouraged by the fact that she is very capable of winning medals on the world stage.”

Christie’s Turkish delight comprised victory in the 1,000m, and bronze after finishing third in the final of the 500m. The results lifted her into a final fourth place in the overall World Cup classifications for the two distances -- beating more than 80 rivals from across the globe.

In the 1,000m final at Erzurum, she came home nearly a second ahead of Canada’s Kasandra Bradette, while in the 500m final, she was only a whisker behind Kexin Fan, of China, and Sofia Prosvirnova, of Russia.

Christie’s success follows a 500m silver she won in the previous World Cup round at Dresden in Germany, plus two bronzes in the Asian leg of the tournament at Seoul in South Korea.

Since the turn of the year, the tenacious 24-year-old Scot has also found time to be crowned overall number one at the European Championships in the Netherlands, landing three gold medals in all, and to retain her three British titles at 500m, 1,000m and 1,500m!

“Elise has raced and won against some of her toughest competition,” added Gooch. “But we won’t allow the success to let us become complacent.

“She is back in training at the National Ice Centre in Nottingham this week and we will be putting in a lot of hours in the lead-up to the World Championships to make sure she is prepared.”

After a 20-hour journey from Turkey to the Hucknall home she shares with boyfriend and fellow speed-skater Jack Whelbourne, Christie was overwhelmed by messages of congratulations.

“Thanks for all the messages!” she tweeted to her 7,233 followers. “I wouldn’t be where I am without all your support.”

Christie also competed in the 1,500m in the World Cup, finishing 28th overall. And Whelbourne left his mark on the prestigious tournament too.

The 23-year-old, who hails from Nottingham, broke the British record for the 1,000m in an earlier round at Salt Lake City in the USA. And in Turkey, he reached the A final of the same event, finishing fourth and only just missing out on a place on the podium after winning his heat, quarter-final and semi-final.

In the overall classifications, Whelbourne was ranked a highly creditable 13th (of 138 skaters) in the 1,000m and 21st (of 125) in the 1,500m, over which distance he was crowned British champion in January. He also won a bronze medal as part of the men’s 5,000m relay team in Salt Lake City.

The tremendous performances of the duo in 2015 ahave gone a long way towards making up for the torrid run of bad luck they had to endure at the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia this time last year when they were dogged by falls and disqualifications.

Christie was even dubbed Britain’s unluckiest Olympian after she was controversially disqualified in all three of her events, including in the 500m final.

Whelbourne was also denied glory when suffering his own disqualification after becoming the first Brit to qualify for the 1,500m final In the process, he sustained an ankle injury that hampered his subsequent performances in the 1,000m and 500m.