SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - British short track speed skater Elise Christie’s rotten luck at the Sochi Winter Olympics continued on Saturday when she was eliminated from the opening round of the women’s 1,500 meters event.
Just two days after missing out on a silver medal in the 500m for causing a pileup, the 23-year-old again incurred the wrath of officials for an infringement in her heat.
Although Christie finished first in her heat, she was deemed not to have completed the race because she veered too far inside the track and did not cross the actual finish line.
Christie was initially bewildered by the ruling.
“I didn’t know whether I’d come first or second but I believed I’d qualified and skated a clean race,” she told reporters.
“However, they’ve disqualified me. I don’t know what to say, I‘m just confused. It’s out of my control now, it’s happened and I need to get on with it.”
With the top three finishers in the heat advancing to the semi-finals, Christie was coasting along in second place as the six skaters approached the finish line.
But at the last moment, she suddenly elected to change direction and overtake Italy’s Arianna Fontana but her new course took her too far inside the small oval track.
“The referee said Elise didn’t cross the line. Where the finish line crosses the track, she crossed inside that line,” Christie’s coach Nicky Gooch explained.
“The judge ruled she was off track and that means officially she hasn’t finished the race.”
Gooch said he had watched a replay of the race and decided not to lodge an appeal after replays confirmed the worst.
“I’ve seen it called before but it doesn’t happen normally and I was really shocked. I’ve looked at the video and we’re talking centimeters here,” he said.
“To the letter of the law it’s probably right but she’s clearly qualified through that race but the rules say you can’t be inside the line.”
Christie is emerging as one of the unluckiest competitors in Sochi. On Thursday, the Scot was relegated from second position to eighth after causing a pileup in the 500m final.
On the first bend of the hotly contested race, she collided with Fontana and South Korea’s Park Seung-hi, sending them all sprawling to the ice.
All three got back on their skates and finished the race, with Christie crossing the line second, only to be told she had been penalized for instigating the pileup.
China’s Li Jianrou avoided the carnage to win the sprint race easily while Fontana was promoted to silver and Park to bronze.
Christie still has one event left in Sochi, the 100m, which is her favorite race.
”I‘m looking forward to getting back out there for the 1000m,“ she said.”
“It’s been a hard few days and I‘m struggling to bounce back. I‘m just going to try my best.”
Additional reporting by Alissa De Carbonnel; editing by Peter Rutherford