THEY say nothing is guaranteed in short-track speed skating, except it seems drama and Elise Christie in tears.
For the second time in three days the Scot was left devast- ated after falling foul of judges in Sochi, a fractional error of judgment leaving her fuming and fragile.
Christie appeared to win her heat in the 1500m but closer inspection - only because a photo finish was required to decide the places behind her - showed she had failed to cross the black line painted on the ice, skating just "millimetres" inside it.
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Coach Nicky Gooch, the last British skater to win an Olympic medal in a sport where you don't just have to be good but also lucky, passionately advocated Christie's case against a Russian skater being promoted at her expense. However, arguing with stone-faced short-track judges is like arguing with a traffic warden, frustrating and, ultimately, futile.
"The referee said Elise didn't cross the line," Gooch said. "Where the finish line crosses the track, she crossed just inside that line. The judge ruled that she didn't finish the race. The top three qualified, she'd done nothing wrong and had skated perfectly. She tried to win the race because there is a benefit to that and the referee has called her finish off track.
"I've seen it called before but it doesn't happen normally and I was really shocked, it's totally rubbish. I've looked at the video and we're talking millimetres here. To the very letter of the law it's probably right. But she's clearly qualified through that race but the rules say you can't be inside the line and that's it, nothing we can do."
It means the 23-year-old has just one event left to deliver on her undoubted podium potential and while it is over 1000m that she has enjoyed her greatest success, with a medal at last year's World Championships and a recent European title, her mental state will be a concern.
Fears only heightened after it was revealed team officials had asked Christie to close her Twitter account, after some mindless messages had mocked her for her performance in the 500m final when she was disqualified for crashing into Italy's Arianna Fontana.
"It's going to be really tough for her now," added Gooch. "She's in the shape of her life and she's skating great but it seems there is a force working against her, it doesn't matter what she's doing, it's just not going her way.
"She will find it hard to come back and she will feel a lot of pressure for the 1000m; she wanted a result before that to take the pressure off. We need to try to keep her focused on the positives, she is skating well and is good enough to win. We'll just have to see."
Asked her greatest strength in the days before these Games, Christie claimed she could bounce back from any disappointment, words she will now have to live up too. She has demonstrated on several occasions this season that she can quickly move on but the Olympics crank up the pressure and heighten every emotion.
Christie was in hospital after a fall during a recent World Cup but returned to the ice 24 hours later and won bronze. She was ganged up on by rivals as she defended her 1500m title at the European Championships but had the last laugh, winning over 1000m in convincing fashion.
The former figure skater from Livingston is certainly made of tough stuff but the disappointments of recent days seem to have drained her fighting spirit when she spoke before knowing the reason for her penalty.
"I have had a few people threatening me on Twitter and it's been a tough few days and I'm finding it quite hard," she said. "I don't know what to say about the judges, I really want a reason to respect the ref's decision.
"I was waiting to watch my team-mate [Charlotte Gilmartin] race and I didn't know whether I'd come first or second but I believed I'd qualified and skated a clean race. However, they've disqualified me. I don't know what to say, I'm just confused. It's out of my control now, it's happened and I need to get on with it."
Christie finished her mixed-zone interviews in tears of frustration and not sounding like an athlete confident of turning it around when she next performs.
"I'm really looking forward to getting out there for the 1000m but I'm struggling now to bounce back. I'm just going to try my best," she said.
There was more disappointment for Team GB in the next heat when Gilmartin also failed to qualify, finishing fifth out of six. In the final, China's Zhou Yang successfully defended her title.
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