A selected group of the Great Britain Short Track Speed Skating performance team will travel to Torino, Italy for the annual ISU European Championships, from 13th – 15th January 2017.
With four ISU World Cup events under their belts this season across Canada, North America, China and Korea, this is an opportunity for a smaller squad of GB athletes to make their mark on the European stage, before the remaining two world cups and world championships, also in Europe, take place.
The athletes included are; 2016 European overall silver medallist Charlotte Gilmartin, Kathryn Thomson, Jennifer Pickering and Hannah Morrison for the ladies, and Farrell Treacy (pictured), Joshua Cheetham, Billy Simms, Jack Burrows and Jonathan Moody for the men’s.
Elise Christie, 26, who has had a remarkable start to the 2016/2017 season, with a new world record time in the 500m (42.335s) and five gold medals in 500m and 1000m, will not travel to the European Championships.
In a tactical decision made between Christie and her coach Nicky Gooch, this will give maximum training time for her to prepare for the remaining world cups and world championships. Domination in this season has put her in 1st place (500m) and 2nd place (1000m) overall in the world rankings, and she is looking at developments in her technique and tactics for the longer distances which are high priority for training.
Elise has achieved a podium position every year at the European Championships since 2013, with overall gold in both 2015 and 2016. Although disappointed not to be joining her teammates for this competition and defending her title, she feels she will benefit from cutting down travelling time and the formalities that go hand in hand with a major event. Christie said:
“We have put a lot of thought into this decision. I’ve been European Champion more than once, but not yet World Champion. This extra training time could help me achieve that goal. It’s a risk, but I am willing to try. By avoiding the rest days and travel days that come with competition, I can focus on more volume training as well as speed training."
She went on to say: “The European Championships are a very special event, it will be disappointing not to go, as the atmosphere is unique and I’ve had a lot of success. We always work well as a team there, but I think the guys have great chances, particularly Charlotte and Kathryn, and Farrell and Josh, who have been really strong this season so far. The competition will be tough though.”
The Great Britain team have had notable success in recent years at the European Championships. Gold and silver place overall were achieved by Elise Christie and Charlotte Gilmartin respectively in Sochi, 2016. Suzanne Schulting of the Netherlands, currently 4th in the 1000m world cup rankings, was third overall. The GB Men’s relay team took bronze in the 5000m in 2016 behind the Netherlands and Hungary.
Hungary currently sit number one in the world cup rankings for the 5000m. With the European countries ranked so highly in the world, the event will be a challenge for the for the up and coming GB skaters, and an opportunity to medal for the more experienced team members.
GB Short Track Performance Director Stewart Laing said: “The European Championships is an important event in our competitive calendar. Teams across Europe are starting to show their dominance on the world stage just proving how fierce the competition in Short Track Speed Skating is. 50% of the women's and 70% of the men's top ten 500m world ranking Classifications to date are European.
“We have athletes who will be attending this competition as their first major Championships and this will be a great opportunity for these athletes to develop and perform. We also have athletes who are returning as medalists from previous years and so our expectations remain high for podium finishes throughout the competition.”
Jack Burrows, 19 and Jonathan Moody, 18 who have both won medals this season in the StarClass events will be competing at the European Championships for the first time, before moving onto the World Junior Championships in Austria at the end of the month.
Team Captain, Gilmartin, 26, is now 7th place in the 1500m world cup rankings and will be aiming to improve on her 2016 1500m European Bronze medal. Charlotte, one of the more experienced team members going to the event says she is looking forward to the challenge:
“I'm looking forward to racing the Europeans next weekend. I had a fantastic result last year. I know I'm going to need to dig deep to better that, as the competition will be strong, but I'm ready to compete and excited by the opportunity. The team have produced a lot of PB’s already this season which is really positive.”