This weekend at the European Short Track Speed Skating Championships in Sochi, Great Britain proved they’re a team to contend with, claiming six medals overall and dominating the final podium.
The team consisted of Elise Christie and Charlotte Gilmartin for the ladies, Jack Whelbourne and Farrell Treacy for the men, and Paul Stanley, Richard Shoebridge, Josh Cheetham, Whelbourne and Treacy, for the men’s relay.
Day 1 of the competition saw tough ice conditions for the preliminaries and heats but despite this Christie, Gilmartin and Whelbourne qualified through all distances with Christie and Whelbourne winning all of their races throughout the day and Gilmartin comfortably winning her 1500m and 1000m preliminary heats.
For Treacy, skating in his first European Championships of his career, a tactical skate served him well against tough opposition. He narrowly missed out on qualifying through to 500m and 1500m quarter finals but performed one better in the 1000m finishing second and qualifying through to the main event later in the competition.
Finally in the men’s relay, the GB team had an excellent race qualifying through to the semi-finals by finishing 2nd in their heat.
By day 2 of competition, Great Britain’s dominance began to show. In an eventful 1500m final Christie battled hard, making excellent tactical decisions to bring home the gold. Then in the 500m Christie dominated from the start line taking a comfortable win and ending the day as the Ladies European leader.
Gilmartin also performed strongly across both 500m and 1500m distances finishing 6th and 7th respectively. She narrowly missed out on the 1500m A final but had an excellent skate in the B final, finishing in first place.
In the men’s discipline, Whelbourne won his semi-final and made through to the 1500m A final. In a very tense and cagey race, he fell with 2 laps to go finishing 6th overall for the distance. In the 500m, Whelbourne narrowly missed out in the quarter finals, ranking 10th overall. Earlier in the morning, Farrell Treacy won both his distance races ranking 28th and 22nd respectively.
In Saturday’s final race, the GB men’s relay team took to the ice in the semi-finals against strong opponents in the Netherlands, France and Belgium. In a very exciting race, GB pipped France to second place and qualified for the A final on Sunday.
The final day was an incredible conclusion for the team as they left Sochi with Elise Christie as European Champion, Charlotte Gilmartin finishing closely behind taking silver overall, and the Men’s relay team taking bronze in the 5000m relay.
Starting with Christie, she qualified through her quarter and semi-final events culminating with gold in the 1000m final where she beat Netherlands, Suzanne Schulting. Meanwhile Gilmartin raced tactically very well to qualify into the final, finishing 4th overall following a fall in the closing laps of the race.
Moving into the 3000m super final, Christie had already secured the European title with an unassailable lead, and Gilmartin was approaching the race in 7th position overall. In a very cagey race, Christie took the additional 5 points available early in the race, leaving Gilmartin to move up the race and finish 2nd and giving her enough points to finish 2nd overall.
For the men, Whelbourne and Treacy narrowly missed out in the 1000m quarter final ranking 12th and 23rd overall for the championship respectively.
At the end the day an exciting encounter saw GB taking bronze in the men’s 5000m relay final. GB fell late on in the race but they picked up the pace and capitalised on a mistake from Russia to take bronze overall.
This brought Great Britain’s medal count to six overall for the competition with two European rankings in the female category and the first relay medal in European Championships for 5 years.
Reflecting on the team’s success, newly appointed British Short Track Speed Skating Performance Director, Stewart Laing said;
"British Short Track Speed Skaters clearly made their mark at the European Champs this weekend. This has been a really positive step for the whole team as we now set our sights on the next two European World cups and the World Championships in Seoul.
“It was great to see our female dominance individually ranked 1 and 2 in Europe, and the men showed true commitment to come back from a fall and take bronze in the 5000m relay."
Full information on the competition results can be found here
Published 25th January 2016