British Olympic skate star who broke down after defeat reveals her grandfather with Alzheimer’s is inspiration ahead of major race

Her hopes of winning a gold medal on Tuesday were shattered after she crashed out of the 500m short track

No sports star likes to lose, but defeat in her first final at this year’s Winter Olympics seemed to hit speed skater Elise Christie especially hard.

After all, competing in Pyeongchang meant all the more to the 27-year-old after been inspired to pursue glory by her grandfather, who is currently suffering from Alzheimer’s.

Christie is back on the ice today for the 1500m short track, desperate to end her string of bad luck and take home her first Olympic medal.

Her first opportunity for a medal in Pyeongchang was in the 500m short track on Tuesday, in which she had been tipped to take Gold.

Two days before she tweeted a photograph of her and her grandfather, captioned simply: “My inspiration”.

Christie asked her followers to say a prayer for her grandfather after be became unwell

But after a tumble on the ice – a defeat which in a painful twist of fate came four years to the day since her silver medal in the 500m was taken from her in the 2014 Winter Olympics – a medal was not to be.

Christie suffered a triple disqualification in Sochi, later admitting she had been “really close to giving it all up”, but seems to have been inspired to put it behind her, in part by her grandfather.

The skater called on her fans to “say a little prayer” for him after he became unwell in November of last year.

She wrote on her social media: “It’s times like these you realise how small skating is and how important your family is! If everyone could say a little prayer for my grandad tonight I would really appreciate it!

Christie was left visibly upset after placing forth in the 500m short track final
Christie was left visibly upset after placing forth in the 500m short track final CREDIT: IAN MACNICOL/GETTY IMAGES

“People wonder how I can laugh at double false starting! There’s more important things to be worried about out there.”

Christie suffered a torrent of cyber-abuse after her disqualifications in Russia and despite picking herself back up, the 500m final in Korea looked like history repeating itself.

No sooner had Christie stepped off the rink than she collapsed, inconsolable, into the arms of her Hungarian boyfriend and fellow skater, Sandor Liu Shaolin. Thirty minutes later, she was still crying.

Talking to the BBC, she said “Right now I just can’t see living with this feeling.

“It’s just tough, I worked so hard. It has been taken away from me. Even in the semi-final I got crashed into and ended up in lane four. It is short track and I am supposed to be prepared for this, but it hurts.”

Christie will complete again on Saturday and Tuesday
Christie will complete again on Saturday and Tuesday

Following her agonising defeat, sporting stars were quick to offer their support to Christie.

Chemmy Alcott said: “You are amazing @Elise_Christie You aren’t invincible you are human but you are superhuman and you can face this. attack this pain head on. You are inspiring so many and everyone is behind you, standing behind and alongside you.”

Kelly Homes added: “Down but not over. You will bounce back even stronger. You know what focus and perseverance is and how you can keep your head up high, fighting for what you believe it!! It’s there! You have got it! It’s just that the other achievements are maybe coming first.”

After her disqualifications in Russia Christie suffered a torrent of cyber-abuse
After her disqualifications in Russia Christie suffered a torrent of cyber-abuse

She will complete in her best distance, the 1000m, on Tuesday with the final taking place on Thursday.

Dubbed the ‘Barbie of speed skating’ due to her bright blonde hair, Christie was crowned a triple world champion last year after winning 1000m, 1500m and overall titles.

Britain have only won one Olympic medal in short track speed skating – when Nicky Gooch claimed bronze in 1994.

No one will be hoping for that legacy to end today more than Christie.