TeamGB speedskater Elise Christie set a new Olympic record to as she passed the first hurdle in her bid for gold medal glory to reach the semi-final of the 500m short-track race in Pyeongchang Winter Games.
The 27-year-old world champion made light work, coming first in a record 42.703 seconds against competitors from Hungary, Canada and Germany – all of who fell as they made it through the finish line.
Christie, who is wearing helmet number one, must now succeed in the semi to make it through to the final.
Her Hungarian boyfriend, short track speed skater Shaolin Liu, and her mother Angela Wright are at the track side urging her on for gold.
The British skater, wearing the distinctive navy blue skin-suit, is the world record holder with at time of 42.335 set at Salt Lake City in November 2016.
She was the fastest to qualify for the next round.
But her main rival, South Korea’s Choi Min-jeong, is the Olympic record holder set at 42.870 just three days ago during her qualifying heat. She beat the record set eight minutes earlier by 0.002 of a second.
The crowd at the Pyeongchang’s Gangnueng Ice Arena have been cheering for her arch rival Minjeong Chong, from South Korea, who broke Christie’s Olympic record in her own heat eight minutes later.
The 27-year-old Scot will have a tough time winning over the home crowd after she knocked over South Korea’s Park Seung-Hi in Sochi four years ago, during her disastrous triple disqualifications during the Olympic Games in Russia
Elise’s crash with a South Korean skater four years ago in Sochie led to her receiving hundreds of death threats from angry Koreans who love speed skating with a passion
Elise has won 15 Europe and world medals between 2014 and 2016, winning gold at the 2017 World Championship
The Scot is having a tough time winning over the home crowd after she knocked over South Korea’s Park Seung-Hi in Sochi four years ago, during her disastrous triple disqualifications during the Olympic Games in Russia.
This led to Christie receiving hundreds of death threats from angry Koreans who love speed skating with a passion.
One message said: ‘I am going to kill you and your mum.’
She thought about the crash and the backlash ‘every day for almost a year’, she has said, and even considered quitting the short-track speed skating and taking up competitive cycling.
But she worked has her way through it and even trained in Korea which helped her to realise ‘that the hatred was from a small minority’.
Elise is TeamGB’s great hope for a first gold medal at the Games if she wins her two heats today to reach the final of the 500m skating
She went on to win 15 Europe and world medals between 2014 and 2016, winning gold at the 2017 World Championship.
Now the three-time Olympian is TeamGB’s best hope of a first medal in Pyeongchang as she competes in the rough and tumble, mad-dash 500m race which lasts less than 50 seconds today.
She is also competing in the 1,000m and 1,500m short-track speed skating races and hopes to break her own world record in the 500m.
Christie, the 2017 triple world champion, revealed her anguish ahead of her qualifying round on Saturday, in light of her three disqualifications at the last Olympic Games in Sochi.
She said: ‘I don’t think I’ve ever been on a start line and felt so nervous, even in finals.
‘It’s because it’s the first time the British public will have seen me mostly since Sochi.
‘I know what happened last time and I obviously have small fears of that happening again. I think it was all just a bit related to that.’
Christie won her heat in dominant fashion, leading from the front to victory over her Chinese rival in just 42.872 seconds.
‘It was a good skate,’ she said after the race.
‘I felt relaxed and it didn’t feel like I was at max speed so seeing 42 secs I was quite shocked, to be honest. It was good.
‘Racing hasn’t gone well recently because of injuries so I wanted to put a statement out there to say, ‘I’m back’.
‘I am definitely in better shape than I was when I broke the [500m] world record [in 2016].
‘My lap times are faster in training then they were when I got the world record – a couple of tenths [of a second] faster.
‘So I am hoping I can break my world record as long as the ice stays in good condition.’
Referring to her past demons, she added: ‘You know you’re at the Olympics, you can’t avoid it – there’s rings everywhere. I’m glad the first one’s out of the way now. The anticipation was killing me. Now I feel ready to focus and actually do the skating and get the job done.’