LONDON (Reuters) – Elise Christie delivered pizzas to earn a crust when her Olympic dreams faded but now the Scot is ready to race again after replacing her speed skates with an electric scooter.
The three-times Olympian, triple world champion in 2017, hopes to return to the rink for the 2026 Games after missing Beijing but the new eSkootr series debuting in London on Saturday is home for now.
Christie, 31, has endured years of trauma and physical and emotional pain, including self-harming, chronicled in a powerful autobiography “Resilience” in which she also speaks of being raped as a 19-year-old.
“eSC (eSkootr) picked me up at the worst point. I broke my ankle and thought it wasn’t worth going to the Olympics…I wasn’t going to be good enough so I chose to stop,” she told Reuters.
“And then it was hard for me. So eSC came along, it was like a breath of fresh air…it’s such a good thing to be a part of, it’s like a family, we’re all really close.
“We’re trying to change the world and show that racing doesn’t need to be damaging to the environment. I think people will love it.”
Christie spoke after addressing children in a South London primary school playground along with former BMX rider Trey Whyte.
The series, drawing male and female athletes from backgrounds as diverse as cycling, hockey, snowboarding and motorbike racing, aims to promote micromobility and sustainability.
Former world heavyweight boxing champion Anthony Joshua has a team, as does Formula One racer and Le Mans 24 Hours winner Nico Hulkenberg, although neither are racing the 100kph machines.
Christie was soon converted.
“I got so used to being in an Olympic sport…but it wasn’t a nice world. This is such a nice thing to be a part of and it’s going to be a massive future,” she said.
If there was much left unsaid from the past, she now felt a sense of release.
“You learn who your real friends are and you also make new ones. And that’s what I’ve done,” said Christie, who still works for Pizza Hut after starting as a delivery driver but is planning a move back to Scotland.
She had considered a future in bobsleigh or skeleton, both Olympic sports, but was now focused on improving her riding skills. The skates, taken off in October, could be back on next year.
“I want to make a point and I’ve got unfinished business,” she said of her Olympic dream.
“But it’s not something I can definitely guarantee because financially it’s proving quite difficult and I can’t do it in this country because I don’t really get along with the federation very well.
“It looks like it would have to be somewhere in Europe like Italy, France, maybe Germany. A lot of places have offered that I can train for free, which you can’t get in England.”
Christie said age was less of a factor, with Canada’s Charles Hamelin winning team gold in Beijing at the age of 37.
Injury is more of a concern for a skater with a long history of accidents.
After debuting at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, Christie arrived at Sochi in 2014 as a medal favourite but was disqualified from all three of her races after collisions.
Four years later in Pyeongchang she also crashed, injuring her right ankle, or was disqualified.
“I did slip at work and break my nose the other day, I’ve actually not hurt anything scootering so far,” she smiled. “I was just being clumsy. I’m a clumsy person, always have been.
“So I got a broken nose which has been fixed up. And other than that, all good. No niggles, no injuries. Fit and ready to go.”
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ed Osmond)