Great Britain: Fish and Chips, Big Ben, soccer… Short track speed skating? Yes! A small nation in this growing sport raised a big star, who, a year ago was crowned overall world champion. Enjoying the support of Hungarian star skater boyfriend Shaolin Sándor Liu, the 27-year-old lady is almost competing in home field in Budapest. Just before the kick-off of the first Olympic Qualifying World Cup of the season, Christie’s coach, Nicholas Gooch shared the pros and contras of living and training in two different countries, and his own role in finding balance in this lifestyle.
Even though Great Britain – according to coach Mr. Gooch – has a quite long history in the sport, it still remained small in the country. But even without massive junior basis, they managed to give a star like Elise Christie to the short track world elite. “She’s super dedicated, she’s super driven and I think that’s the key. Of course, she’s very talented and very good at skating, but I really think that it is her motivation”, the Nottingham expert pointed out. “she also trained most of the times with boys and these may be a key factor”, Nicholas Gooch added.
As a coach, he believes that the most important between tutor and student is trust. “My job is to support her. When you’re trying to reach excellence, it’s normal that you argue sometimes, because we’re trying to be the best in the world and we’re very passionate about it, sometimes we see things in a different way, but the key is good communication and everything can be solved”, he shared his philosophy of coaching and cooperation.
After making mistakes after mistakes at the Olympic Games in Sochi, penalized or disqualified in all the 3 individual races thus failing to catch a medal place, Christie has been close to a major breakthrough in the past years with world cup and European Championships gold medals. However, something was still missing until this year’s World Championships in Rotterdam, where she finally won the 1000m and 1500m events that led her to the top of the overall podium as well. Maturity, good focusing and calmness were the main characteristics of her competing in the Dutch port city.
“I think she was a bit more confident, she seemed to be ready not just to win medals, but to win the gold”, he said. “I think also Shaolin and their relationship has a really positive effect on her, he is calming for Elise. I think it’s his manner, the way he communicates with her and how he supports her. It just makes my job easier”, Mr. Gooch added.
However, living and training in two different countries is not quite easy. “I think the most important is to reach balance, to find what makes her happy and what is good for her. The Hungarians have a bit different training philosophy than what we follow at home in Great Britain, but we try to get the most from both ways”, he explained. “It’s difficult to have a long-term relationship if you don’t see each other very often, but fortunately the Hungarians are very supportive, so she enjoys her time in Budapest, and she is happy to train here. She trains with Shaolin and with boys, so I think that’s a benefit for her. The intensity is much higher than what other girls are doing. Then she comes home to Nottingham, and we have to focus on those things that she needs to focus on as well.”, the expert said. What really makes it difficult to have two homes is managing everyday life. “I think sometimes when we are away for a long time, Elise’s life at home and the number of things she has to do in the shorter space of times is higher. Sometimes when she goes home, she can be a lot busier, but when she comes here, it’s more like a training camp and she has to focus on her training”, he explained.
The “almost-home-field” might help Elise Christie to kick off the season well, but her coach is cautious. “It’s just a stepping stone to the Olympics. We came here to practice racing, to have some good experience that we can use at the Games and develop her skills to hopefully be able to deliver her best at the main event of the year in PyeongChang. Obviously, we need to qualify, but whenever she skates, she wants to win”, he smiled.
And she is striving for a good result after all that bad luck in 2014. “I think Sochi was quite dramatic for Elise and psychologically a tough time for her, but that’s the past. We focus on the future”, he stated. “You know, she was World Champion last year, but that doesn’t mean that she’ll win this year as well. We only focus on the present and not really worry about the past”, Mr. Gooch pointed out. “There’s definitely an aftermath of what happened in Sochi which had a very strong negative impact on her, but at the same time, she came through that and became stronger”, he added.