The problem with sports that centre around the Olympics is that just once every four years, an athlete is given an opportunity to shine on a truly global stage. Perhaps more than any other, Elise Christie has suffered with that more than most, despite being one of Britain's most successful and resilient athletes over the past decade.
“I am not a decorated Olympian but I am a decorated athlete,” said the Scot, after announcing her retirement from short track speed skating despite only turning 31 this year, after an ankle injury in the early stages of the World Cup season ended her chances of qualifying for Beijing 2022. It is worth listing just some of those achievements.
More than 70 medals have been amassed during her career - she is a three-time world gold medallist, a 10-time European champion, 15 World Cup titles, and a whole host of other podium positions. Christie was one of the most prolific athletes of her generation during the 2010s - but for many, her career will be defined by her experience at the Olympics - it shouldn’t be.
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In a British sporting landscape dominated by sporting behemoths like the Premier League, the Scottish Premiership, international rugby union and cricket, Christie’s short track speed skating achievements have not always got the attention they deserve - perhaps that is partly our fault in the media. But in a weird way, it was the heartbreak that British fans lived through with Christie at Sochi 2014 and Pyeongchang 2018 that drew their affection.
In Sochi, she was disqualified from all of her events and then had to deal with online abuse, after she was accused of causing a South Korean rival to crash. But it was Pyeongchang where the disappointment was really felt, a year after she won her triple World Championship gold, heading to the Games as one of the hot favourites.
It looked like it was going to go to plan - setting an Olympic record in the first round of her opening event. This surely wasn’t going to go the same way as last time. But in the 500m final, a competitor’s skate clipped her hand and down went the Scot, when she was set for success. It literally ended in tears, during an emotional interview she struggled to compose herself.
But back she came and in the 1500m, we all started to really feel it. Christie was disqualified, and damaged her ankle in the process. Despite receiving hospital treatment, she returned for the 1000m, somehow seeming to qualify from her opening race, before she was helped off the track in what looked like agonising pain. That soon became a nightmare, when she was again disqualified.
There is surely not a British Olympian who deserves more luck on that stage than Christie, but it has also made her iconic and probably better known than most other Winter Olympians who have represented Team GB over the past few decades.
She is quite simply a model of resilience - and brave too. Christie has spoken about her mental health and this year opened up about the night she was sexually assaulted when she was 19. The Scot wanted to speak up about her experiences to help enable other victims and survivors to seek help and justice.
It is a marker of the extraordinary character of Christie - and it doesn’t look like we are done yet on this sporting roller coaster. "This won't be the last you'll see of me in sport, but I'm taking a new venture down a different path,” she said, after announcing her retirement, before saying she will soon reveal her plans for “2026”.
Does that mean another shot at the Olympics? A switch of disciplines for Milan-Cortina? We have seen other athletes do the same - just look at Eurosport’s own Greg Rutherford and fellow track and field Olympian Montell Douglas, who are bidding to compete in the bobsleigh.
The Christie drama is not over - but we have enjoyed and endured the ride so far.
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