British speed-skating ace Elise Christie targets world gold

By Nick HopeBBC Olympic sports reporter
GB short track speed skaters prepare for season-ending World Championship finals in Hungary.

British short-track speed skater Elise Christie plans to use this week's World Championshipsexternal-link in Hungary as a rehearsal for next year's Winter Olympics.

Athletes are limited to two distances in World Cup events, but the 1,000m specialist has the chance to add both the 500m and 1500m in Debrecen.

"If at the Olympics I fall on the first lap it's all over unless I have another event," said Christie.

"Sprinting isn't my strongest suit, but the 500m gives me more options."

Christie teaches Williams to speed skate

The World Championships, which begin on Friday, provide the finale to a season that has seen Christie become Great Britain's first 1,000m World Cup champion.

The Scottish skater has also finished on the podium nine times across the 1,000m and 1,500m World Cup events, and secured two European titles in January.

But she is aware the situation can change very quickly in her sport.

"In the Europeans [in Sweden] I was about to win the overall gold medal, but with a lap to go [in the 3,000m] I fell over.

"I was absolutely devastated and was crying, which was really embarrassing, but that's how much it means and why I need to be prepared."

Christie, who competed at the Vancouver Games at the age of 19, is targeting her first World Championships honour, having finished an agonising fourth in the 1,000m at last year's event in Shanghai.

"If I treat it like just another event and everything goes right then I can win a medal," she added.

Although Christie has attained unparalleled success this season, she is not Britain's only medallist.

Team-mate Charlotte Gilmartin joined the Scottish skater on the rostrum by claiming 1500m bronze at the European Championships in January and feels Christie's success is benefiting the whole team.

"It's been my best ever year," Gilmartin told BBC Sport. "Training with Elise everyday helps because she's number one in the world, and if I'm anywhere near her it's a good sign."

"There's a great feeling in the team at the moment and we all believe we can go out there and do well."

For Jon Eley, the event will provide him with an opportunity to finish a relatively disappointing 12 months on a high note.

The two-time Olympian, who won US World Cup gold in late 2011 and was part of the British relay team which broke the 5,000m relay world record that year, has failed to finish on the podium this season.

"It's been frustrating," admitted Eley. "But since Christmas, things have started to get a lot better.

"In the last few World Cups I had some good performances and one of those was in Sochi [the 2014 Olympics venue] so that was a great bonus."

Eley added: "For me, going to the World Championships is about laying down a bit of a marker and saying 'look guys, I haven't had the best of seasons but I'm still here and willing to put it on the line and look for medals come next year'."

With his team's impressive season following the London Games, GB performance director Stuart Horsepool admits he is delighted with the attention the sport is receiving. However, he stresses that short-track speed skating is a precarious sport where no-one is guaranteed success.

"I think the Olympic ideals and the effort of the Olympians in the summer have created a hunger for these sports because the public realise the athletes are real people who work really hard for a sport they love," he said.

"I don't like setting medal targets and we can't control what other teams do, but I think we can come home [from the World Championships] with two medals."

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