GANGNEUNG, South Korea -- There were no tears as Elise Christie assessed her disqualification from the 1,000-metre heats. Instead, resolve, stoicism and almost a gallows humour at her misfortune in the Olympics. "You couldn't have written that in a book," she said, assessing her third Games to go by without a medal.
Attention and pressure has been on Christie, 27, in these Winter Olympics. The emotional roller coaster has taken her from devastation on the first Tuesday after crashing out of the 500 final, to the pain of damaging her right ankle and being disqualified from the 1,500 semifinals on Saturday, to the 1,000 heats, her favoured event.
In itself, this was the perfect manifestation of Christie's Games. Bravery with Christie is never in doubt, instead it just did not click. When we spoke the Wednesday before the Games started, she was in good spirits, but she talked of nerves, mentioned the expectation but equally the drive: repaying those who have supported her over the last four years since Sochi 2014, which was a heartbreaking tale in itself.
"I had so many messages, and some of them have made me quite emotional, all the kids that have used Twitter to contact me, they've told me I'm their inspiration, their hero," she said Tuesday. "And I just thought, 'I've done it for you guys'."
The spectre of Sochi hung over these Olympics. "Sochi destroyed me," was her succinct account of her eventful 2014 Games which ended with three disqualifications and death threats. She feels she has taken steps forward. "I wasn't supposed to be an Olympic medallist [in Sochi], it wasn't in me... I don't see that now."
On this night, there were smiles though clearly she was in pain both emotionally and physically. Watching her on the start line before the race, and warming up prior to her 1,000 heat, she moved gingerly, testing out the right ankle which she said would usually rule her out for six weeks. "My ankle has doubled in size. Getting into my skate was hard enough. I can't describe the pain I was in," Christie said.
Pre-race she tested it out as the arena started to fill. Chumbawumba's "Tupthumping" played -- "I get knocked down, but I get up again" goes the chorus. No injections were administered, just the usual ice, recovery, elevation for damaged ankles. She wanted to give it a go -- a case of mind over body, showing mental fortitude.
But when she crashed in the first start of two to the race, she was clearly in pain. She caught her breath. "It sounds weird but I was thinking about everyone back home watching and I just felt that I deserved to give it a go for them. I know how many people have tuned in to see that and I thought, 'I'm going to give it my best shot'."
She went back to the start and immediately fell behind, almost deliberately so that she could find her stride. She did, and managed to come through in second place. But the sting in the tail was still to come: She was hit with two yellow cards, equalling disqualification, and another Games going by without the medal she so craves.
But there were no obvious pangs of regret or heartbreak as she assessed the race afterward. Instead she highlighted how she is a double world champion, and how she has, ironically, enjoyed these Games more than those championships.
"The Olympics is easier," Christie said. "I was nowhere near as stressed here as the worlds last year. To be on the overall top of that podium was the most insane feeling in the world.
"I've enjoyed this way more than the worlds other than the fact it's not worked out. It's just unlucky it's happened at both Games. You couldn't have written that in a book."
She had previously weighed switching to a different sport after these Games. She has pondered cycling before, perhaps another winter sport, but her immediate reaction here in Pyeongchang was she is already targeting Beijing 2022 for what will be her fourth Games. "I wanted to try another sport but I'll commit to this one a bit longer. It sucks but that's it now."
She will now take a break, before refocusing and going again. Wiser for the experience, she is resolute in her message that she will be back. In a way these Games have helped her park Sochi; there is now a barrier in between this and the rest of her short-track speedskating career. It is the most bonkers of sports, where form sometimes means little. But the desire is still there.
"For all the success I've had, I can't let this define me. I can't even count on two hands how many gold medals I've won since Sochi, I'm the world-record holder. I'm going to get myself so strong that I'll get out in front and get away from everyone and that'll be the focus now."