- Short Track
Great Britain's Elise Christie falls foul of life on the edge to lose silver
SOCHI, Russia, - In the rough and tumble world of short track speed skating, competitors really do live on a razor's edge and the difference between winning and wipeout can be just a bump at high speed.
Collisions are an unavoidable part of the sport as the skaters fly around the icy bends only inches apart, and luck can play as big a part as skill in deciding who gets the medals.
Britain's Elise Christie found this out the hard way at the Sochi Olympics on Thursday.
Christie missed out on a silver when she was blamed for a crash in the women's 500 metres final after she, Arianna Fontana of Italy and South Korea's Park Seung-hi were sent sprawling on the ice following a collision on the first lap.
All three got back on their skates and finished, but the 23-year-old Christie was relegated by officials to eighth place after crossing the line second.
Embedded owg_slideshow: Li Jianrou wins women's 500m, wild crash occurs
China's Li Jianrou avoided the pileup to win the sprint race easily while Fontana was promoted to silver and Park to bronze.
Christie, who left the rink in tears, felt hard done by. She said she lost control only because another competitor clipped her skates from behind.
"It was a 50/50 call, but everyone has different opinions," she told the BBC. "There was a little gap and I knew I had more speed at that point. I used my instinct and went for it. Now I am regretting it.
"I thought she (Fontana) hit me," Christie said. "I was not sure if it would go my way, I did not think it would be me (disqualified) but it was. You have to respect the decision."
Christie's heartbreak came less than an hour after she advanced to the four-woman final after her two main rivals, including China's double world champion Fan Kexin, collided with each other in the semi-finals.
The Scotswoman's favoured races are the 1000m and 1500m, which are still to come, so she was putting a brave face on her disappointment.
"I was really relaxed as it was not my major event," she said. "I will use the next day to get my head back together."
Christie is unlikely to be the last skater to fall foul of the officials in a high-speed sport that courts controversy.
Embedded owg_slideshow: Spotlight: Elise Christie
At the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics, South Korea's Kim Dong-sun was disqualified after winning the men's 1,500 metres.
Officials ruled Kim had illegally blocked American Apolo Ohno, who was promoted to the gold medal, triggering fury in South Korea that still lingers to this day.
The South Korean team lodged a protest that was dismissed, then appealed to the International Olympic Committee and finally went to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, but all to no avail.
But the vagaries of short track can also produce extraordinary winners.
One of the most celebrated was the Australian Steve Bradbury who won his country's first gold medal at a Winter Olympics after an unimaginable sequence of events in Salt Lake City.
After he won his heat, Bradbury's prospects of progressing further looked to be over when he finished third in his quarter-final. Only the first two go through to the semi-finals.
But he was thrown a lifeline when one of the two men in front of him, Canada's world champion Marc Gagnon, was disqualified.
In the semi-finals, Bradbury knew he had no real chance of keeping up with his younger, faster opponents so he devised a strategy of staying far behind his rivals and hoping they fell.
His plan worked when three of his rivals crashed on the last lap and he came from last to finish second, earning a spot in the final. And his lucky streak continued in the five-man final.
Bradbury was a distant last before the four men in front of him crashed in a heap on the last corner as they jostled for the gold. The Australian glided past them all to win, raising his arms as much in astonishment as celebration.