ESCLUSIVO: ‘I tried to run but he kept chasing me. Then he bundled me into a taxi’: GB Olympic speed skater Elise Christie reveals she was drugged and raped – and hopes harrowing account of 2010 attack will help other victims
She is a multiple World and European champion currently in training for her fourth Winter Olimpiadi. An elite athlete who has spent the best part of a decade competing for the biggest prizes in the cut-and-thrust sport of short track speed skating.
By anyone’s standards, Elise Christie is a remarkable individual. Guidato, dedicated, determinato. E, sì, vulnerabile. Proudly so.
Engaged in a daily struggle with her mental health, Christie has really found her voice in recent years, speaking openly about her history of self-harm — and even an attempted suicide.
GB speed skater Elise Christie revealed she was drugged and raped as a teenager
In her newly-published autobiography, appropriately entitled Resilience, the 31-year-old Scot also writes movingly about the lasting effect of childhood bullying, among other difficult subjects.
One chapter, in particolare, required a rare sort of courage. A bravery rooted in the hope that, by speaking out, she might do some good.
Addressing the inner conflict she went through before deciding to break her silence about being drugged and raped as a teenager, Christie told Posta sportiva: ‘It was the hardest one to write. But it will definitely help people.
‘There is a lot of honesty in that chapter and, Ad essere onesti, I struggled to read it back. It took me months.
'Stavo pensando: “I don’t want to say it…” You know? Because it’s about me.
‘If I was reading it from a different perspective, about someone else, penserei: "Oh, I’m not the only one that this has happened to. People can get through this.”
‘It’s weird because you can talk about victim guilt. E, as I wrote it, Mi sono sentito in colpa.
‘But there was nothing I was saying that was wrong, yet you still feel very guilty about getting a negative reaction or upsetting anyone.
Christie hopes her harrowing account of the March attack in 2010 will help other victims
‘I know this will help people. And it could even help people right now, if they’re experiencing what I was.
‘When I went through it, I was too naive to know what had happened was wrong.
‘This will hopefully relate with people and encourage them to deal with it the way they need to.’
Christie’s account of the March 2010 attacco, an incident she kept private for years, makes for harrowing reading.
Revealing how it all started with an innocent night out in Nottingham, just after she’d made her first World Championships appearance for Team GB, the Livingston-born athlete wrote: ‘I remember going into this bar in town; I was with a teammate at the time.
‘We bought a drink and I had only got through a couple of sips when this guy came over to me and started talking. I was just chatting back without thinking about it too much.
‘Then he offered to get me a drink, whereupon I told him that I already had a drink — a drink that I’d barely touched. But he went and got one anyway and came back with it saying: “Try this one”.
She’s one of the most recognisable figures in her sport and training for her fourth Olympics
‘I had a couple of sips of this new drink. Ancora, I was too naive to know any better.
‘Even then I still hadn’t had an entire drink in total, but I remember thinking to myself: “I’m not staying out feeling like this. This is not good.” It wasn’t even late anyway. It must have been 10 o’clock.’
Things got worse as Christie waited outside for a taxi she’d ordered, with the man in question following her into the street — and bundling her into the cab.
‘I was strangely impaired and my body wasn’t functioning properly at all,' lei disse. ‘I tried to run away from him but I simply couldn’t run.
‘As hard as I tried, I just couldn’t get away from this guy. Whenever I fell on the floor, he kept running after me, picking me up and dragging me, eventually into the taxi.
‘I do remember — through the brain fog and fractured memories — saying to the taxi driver: “Please don’t take me to this guy’s house. You’ve got to take me home”.
'A un certo punto, we actually drove quite close to where I lived and by this point I was f***ing screaming: “There! We need to turn down there!"’
With her assailant convincing the driver that his ‘girlfriend’ was simply drunk, Christie was transported back to his house.
Lei disse: ‘It was clear to me right then that he was going to sexually assault me and the whole time I was repeatedly telling him: Sven Good ha detto che stava lavorando nella casa unifamiliare dei suoi genitori a Brentwood. No.”
‘As much as I was saying no, this guy kept forcing himself onto me.
The 31-year-old revealed she was bundled into a taxi after a night out and raped in 2010. She was left so traumatised, she didn’t report it to the police and kept it private for years
'Adesso, I’m feisty and strong and could probably push most lads off me if I had to on my best day. But in this state I just couldn’t fight this guy off at all.
‘As hard as I tried, my arms were flopping. I could wriggle, but I just couldn’t get up. In the end I just gave in and let it happen. At some point I must have passed out.’
Waking in the middle of the night, Christie fled the scene in horror. She did not report the attack to the police.
‘I just didn’t know what to do,' lei spiegò, aggiungendo: ‘I definitely didn’t want to tell my mum because I knew that it would only upset her.
‘I always thought that rape was what you saw on TV shows — where someone gets grabbed in a park, dragged into the bushes, battered, raped and left for dead. That hadn’t happened to me.
‘I wasn’t punched or beaten and I wasn’t left out in the cold. But I was forced to have sex against my will and at the time I just wasn’t mature enough to know that the two are exactly the same.’
It took long enough for Christie to confide in even her closest friend. Traumatised without realising how badly she’d been affected, she argued with herself about how much to include in the book.
Christie has spoken openly about her mental health battles, bullying and her heart-rending ordeal in 2010 among other difficult subjects in her new autobiography Resilience
Ha rivelato: ‘Some things, I really asked myself: "Oh, do I really want that in the book?"
‘I will put my hands up and say there are things that aren’t in there. Things that could help people.
‘But it is my Olympic season. And I had to find a line, some things have to be private, I have to keep a little bit of myself back.
‘I put in as much as I feel comfortable with, because I think it can help people.
‘A lot of people I know have gone through mental health problems or addiction issues.
‘I was never an addict, I was just really struggling and going through manic phases. But I’d spend money because it makes you feel better.
‘You end up messing your life up. And I’m still there. I make clear that I haven’t got out the other side — but I’m positive that, by taking a step in the right direction every day, I can get there.
‘The fact that this book might help people drove me to care about it more.
‘I didn’t want to sound like I was just telling a story about why my Olympics failed…’
Christie’s first major disappointment on the world stage came in 2014 at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, where she was disqualified in all three attempts to win gold. Her crash in the 500m also saw her receive death threats from Korean fans who felt she’d caused the crash of fellow competitor Park Seung-Hi.
She entered the 2018 Games in Pyeongchang, Corea del Sud, determined to make amends and she set an early Olympic record before agonisingly crashing in the final of the 500m, ultimately finishing fourth. Another fall followed in the 1500m semi-finals before her misery was complete with another disqualification in the quarter-finals of the 1,000m.
While her Olympic misfortunes, injury heartbreaks and agonising near misses have been there for all to see — and comment upon, often harshly — once every four years, Christie’s real-world troubles have been far more severe.
Christie has experienced Olympic heartache on more than one occasion during her career
Like anyone who has struggled with their mental health, she’s still fighting now.
Leaping on an observation about the fallacy of anyone being able to definitively ‘win’ a battle with their inner demons, lei disse: ‘When I came out to talk about my issues, a lot of the media comment was: “Look what happened to her. But she’s better now”.
‘And I wasn’t. A quel punto, I’d tried to come off my medication. I’m back on it and don’t see myself ever coming off it.
‘Some people’s livers don’t function. This is a hormonal imbalance that will be there if I don’t take my medication on a life-long basis. I go through dark days and dark periods. I have good days.
‘But you can’t look at life as a battle that can be won. I’m never going to be like people who don’t go through these things.
‘In some ways, it’s a hard message to hear. People might think: “Oh no, I’m never going to feel better.”
‘That’s not true. I’ve gone six months now without self-harm, which is the longest I’ve gone.
‘That doesn’t mean I won’t slip up in the future. But it was every day before. That’s a big step.
Korean fans who felt she’d caused Park Seung-Hi (davanti) to crash in 2014 sent her death threats
‘If I have one bad day every three weeks, I’ve got 20 days that are good.
‘It’s setting little goals, moving forward day by day, hour by hour sometimes.’
Raised by single mum Angela, and now reconciled with the father whose drinking problems caused the breakdown of their family unit when she was still just a baby, Christie was always obsessed with being good at things.
Like older brother Jamie, who she describes as a ‘genius’ now working in video game design, she was encouraged to make the most of her talent by her mother, who not only realised her daughter’s ability, but her drive to succeed as a speed skater. Which meant letting her move from Livingston to Nottingham at aged 15.
That was quite a step for a girl who had changed primary schools because of physical bullying — and then suffered emotional torment during her high school years, singled out for abuse because of her sporty frame and athleticism.
‘Until you actually experience it, you can’t understand the damage it does,’ said Christie, who took a while to appreciate the measures her mum took to protect her.
'Al tempo, I was embarrassed by it,' lei disse. ‘Now I see how strong she was, what she would do to keep the people she loved safe.
‘My dad was in and out. I’m actually very close to him now. My brother and him aren’t, they still don’t speak.
‘But when I was young it was my mum and my gran — my dad’s mum, which is a strange combination to some people — who brought me up from about six months.
But Christie’s problems on the ice have not been as severe as her real-world troubles
‘My dad didn’t abandon us but there were rules in place, given the situation, and we didn’t see him much.
‘I’ve always felt life is too short and I see the good in people. I can really fall out with someone, hate them in that moment, but quickly understand what made them like that.
‘With my dad and his drinking, he’s not a saint now. Ma, with what I’ve gone through, it’s given me more understanding.
‘I always tried to understand why he was the way he was. He had a difficult upbringing, was beaten up by his dad, had a very poor upbringing and a difficult life.
‘I don’t know what happened on the day because I’ve asked not to know. I know the day my mum walked out, it involved him being drunk; my brother was old enough to understand.
'Al tempo, my mum being so strict with us didn’t faze me much. I wanted to be a good kid, wanted to be good at things.
‘I never grew up wanting to be an Olympian. I just wanted to be good at what I was doing. She pushed that in me.’
Intending to step back from being a funded athlete after the Olympics, Christie intends to chase a world record — which requires a different sort of training — before moving into relay racing.
Intanto, she’s combining elite sport with a flexible contract working in Pizza Hut.
Christie’s bravery to compete out on the ice and to speak openly about her daily struggles, past abuse and history of self-harm highlights what a remarkable individual she is
‘It helps with the issues around my money,’ said Christie. ‘But it’s also good to be around people who don’t care about skating.
‘Pizza Hut offered the best flexibility. si, I could have gone and worked in a more upper-class job, but it wouldn’t have let me go travelling, do zero hours some weeks … they’re very good with me.
‘My brother worked at McDonald’s the whole time he was at uni, studying astrophysics and then computing. That’s what you do.
‘My friends are proud of me for being so humble. That’s one way to look at it. But especially as Winter Olympians, we don’t make a lot of money.
‘I still love the sport. I like the feeling of skating fast, being around a group of people who want to achieve. It’s good for the endorphins.’
Oh sure, hurtling around a short track in a rough-house racing format, never knowing when a competitor will decide simply to ‘take you out’ at high speed, sounds like a lot of fun. For those who like that sort of thing.
It’s certainly not for the faint-hearted. Just as well Christie is so brave, poi, non è vero? Out on the ice, ovviamente. But also on the written page.
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Resilience is the compellingly honest autobiography of Elise Christie, the triple World Champion, ten-time European Champion and former world record holding short track speed skater, telling her Olympic story and her personal mental health journey. Told with her trademark blend of unfiltered honesty and dark humour, Resilience is her incredible, inspiring story.
Order Elise Christie: Resilience, published by Reach Sport, con 25% spento: https://reachsportshop.com/book/elise-christie-resilience/