Winter Olympics: Luckless Britons suffer short track speed skating heartbreak

British short-track stars must have done something really terrible to those vengeful Olympic Gods in a previous life.

Three-time world champion Elise Christie, whose troubles at the last two Games have been well publicised, is watching back at home.

But her former teammates have clearly walked under the same ladder, broken a mirror and opened an umbrella indoors.

In the space of just 45 minutes, Kath Thomson and brothers Niall and Farrell Treacy saw their hopes in the Saturday heats ended at Capitol Indoor Stadium.

Thomson crashed inside 15 seconds, Olympic newcomer Niall, in his only race here, hit the deck as his race got hot, and Farrell finished last, claiming he’d lost count of the laps and sprinted too early.

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As they say, that’s short track – a sport in which, at the Olympics at least, Britain rarely seems to get the rub of the green.

However, you had to feel doubly sorry for the unfortunate Farrell, who revealed his Olympic involvement had been hanging in the balance after a positive Covid test in mid-January.

“I tested positive before I came out and with all the Covid protocols in China it was looking very unlikely that I’d be here,” he said.

GB’s Niall Treacy (right) in action on Saturday

“I was having tests every day to get negatives and the anxiety was crazy. The protocols were ever changing and one day I was told, ‘Sorry, it’s not going to happen,’ but that next day that changed.

“Ten days of isolation, when I couldn’t get on the ice, is not ideal when you’ve got a Games coming up.”

Farrell had moved to Salt Lake City in Utah to make his final preparations with the US team, working with their respected head coach Stephen Gough.

However, he will now reset his focus on the 1500m next week, though his younger sibling’s Olympic experience is over.

“I only came out on Tuesday and I’m just glad and relieved to be here. I’ve a couple more days to try and figure things out and get over the jet lag,” he added.

“I made a really big error and to do that on this stage is heartbreaking. I thought I heard the bell, I thought it was a lap to go and I’ve gone to the line early.

“It’s never happened before, so to happen at the Olympic Games is not fantastic. I don’t know if it’s a massive lapse of judgement or there was something that I heard – but even the bell came quite late. Normally it comes as you’re coming out of the corner but that’s on me.”

Thomson, who also competes in the 1000m and 1500m, admitted frustration that her race wasn’t restarted after spinning into the hoardings in the very first lap.

This sport is often compared to human dodgem cars – here in Beijing the luckless Brits were taking bumps and knocks from all sides.

Thomson reacts to her early crash in Beijing

“I don’t think I made 15 seconds before I hit the ice, that’s really frustrating as I was looking forward to that race,” she said.

“I got a really good start but then I felt hands on my legs and the next thing I was on the ground. I’m a bit annoyed that the officials didn’t call us back but I need to review that.

“I was hoping to build on my events through the Games but I’ve still got two really good opportunities to see what I can do.”

Niall insists he will learn from the mistakes of his first race on the world stage and is already thinking of four year’s time in Milano Cortina.

The 21-year-old, whose career on the ice is financially supported by Entain – owner of Ladbrokes and Coral – and SportsAid, said: “Going onto the ice and knowing that I’d become an Olympian is a dream that I’ve had ever since I started short track.

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“Unfortunately it wasn’t an ideal end to it.”

Entain, owner of Ladbrokes and Coral, is proud to be championing the next generation of British sporting heroes by providing talented young athletes with financial support and personal development opportunities in partnership with SportsAid. Visit entaingroup.com to find out more.

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