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British speed skaters ready for World Championships in Russia

Seven members of the GB Short Track Speed Skating squad are currently in Russia, gearing up for the ISU World Short Track Speed Skating Championships this weekend (Friday 13th to Sunday 15th March). The event is the final competition of the 2014/15 season for the senior speed skaters.

Based on their performances throughout the ISU World Cup Series this season, Jack Whelbourne, Jon Eley, Elise Christie and Charlotte Gilmartin have qualified to compete in the individual events at the World Championships.

Stuart Horsepool, Performance Director for GB Short Track commented: “The quality of the performance programme has meant that we have become progressively better over the course of the season, which has given the squad the experience and confidence they need to skate well this weekend. That’s not just down to the skaters; it’s the whole team behind the scenes including coaches, sports science and sports medicine experts who have seen the squad through the season.”

Elise Christie, who has had a successful season – collecting four medals during the ISU World Cup Series and claiming the European Champion title in January – will be competing in the World Championships, despite losing her Grandmother just a few weeks ago.

Horsepool added: “Elise is very brave for making the decision to compete in the World Championships, considering everything that is going on in her personal life. She was extremely close to her Grandmother, and the passing of family members is emotionally draining so it’s a testament to her professionalism that she’s even come out to Russia”.

Christie’s boyfriend and team mate, Jack Whelbourne said: “Family comes first and Elise needs to have her time to focus on her personal life. I know firsthand how much pressure is involved in the sport, and the whole team is really proud of her for soldiering on. Now more than ever, we need to step up and support Elise in order to get the results for the team.

“I’m feeling really excited going in to the World Championships this year. I’ve been focused on my individual performance for much of this season, and going out to the training camp in Korea in summer was a massive boost for me. It’s given me the confidence to go out and give it my best shot this weekend”.

Horsepool has confidence in his team, having seen noticeable improvements in all of them during the 2014/15 season. He added:

“We have more skaters performing at a higher level now; we have had 30 top ten finishes from the squad at the World Cups and European Championships this season, which just shows the depth of talent we have going into the World’s and beyond. Elise has had a really strong season, medalling in 1,500m and 500m distances at the European Championships earlier this year. Charlotte has continued to improve and is now consistently making top ten’s at World Cup level. She also made her first ever World Cup A Final this season and narrowly missed out on a medal at the European Championships.

“Following Sochi, Jack had a slow start to the season, but he has shown big improvements in the last two World Cups; reaching three out of four finals is exceptional. He now needs to turn those opportunities into medals. Jon, whose biggest strength is 500m, has also had a consistent season, making top 16’s in a number of races this year.

Richard Shoebridge will skate alongside Eley and Whelbourne in the men’s 5,000m relay, with Billy Simms and Joshua Cheetham hoping for the fourth and final place in the four-man relay team. Qualification for the relay is based upon results from the World Cup Series, with only the top eight teams in the world securing a place at the World Championships.

Jack Whelbourne added: “We’ve done really well to reach the relay at the World Championships this year as we only competed in four out of six relay events in the World Cup Series. It’s exciting to have Junior and Senior skaters racing together in the relay. The event isn’t about getting a medal for us this year, it’s about experience and development for the Juniors.  Billy and Josh have both been performing well and as our top junior skaters, they will need the experience of competing in the relay at world level as we turn our focus to the next Winter Olympics.

Christie, Gilmartin, Eley and Whelbourne will compete across all three distances in the individual events (1,500m, 500m and 1,000m), starting with the qualifying rounds on Friday 13th March.  The 1,500m and 500m events will continue to a finish on Saturday (14th March), along with the men’s relay semi final. The event will culminate in the 1,000m and men’s relay finals on Sunday (15th March).

Horsepool said: “While I have every confidence in the squad and their ability, we have to keep in mind that speed skating is very unpredictable, with a lot more competition than in some other sports. This year, we have been strongly focused on performance and developing race skills, because the more experience they can take into Pyeongchang 2018, the better”.

The GB athletes are all part of the National Ice Skating Association’s (NISA) World Class Short Track Programme.

To follow the results over the weekend, go to http://www.isu.org/en/short-track-speed-skating/calendar-of-events/2015/03/isu-world-short-track-speed-skating-championships.

The races will be streamed live at http://livemanager.eurovision.edgesuite.net/isu/index.html.

12th March 2015