Sochi 2014: Elise Christie says rival's absence 'makes difference'

Newly-crowned European champion Elise Christie says injury to a leading rival means there is "all to play for" in her short-track events at Sochi 2014.

How short-track skating works

Short-track involves four to six skaters racing each other in laps of a standard ice rink, in a sport which shares similarities with track cycling's keirin and ski cross. Competitors must progress through knockout rounds into the final, then the first over the line wins.

Outright speed is no guarantee of winning a race - short-track is an intensely strategic sport where positioning is vital, making sure you are in the right place to seize split-second opportunities as you dash for the line, without exhausting yourself at the front for the whole race.

Collisions are fairly common. You can be disqualified for impeding a rival or unsportsmanlike conduct, or automatically advanced to the next round if you were unfairly disadvantaged in your race.

Elise Christie races in all three individual events - the 500m, 1000m and 1500m.

That translates into 4.5 laps for the 500m, nine laps for the 1000m and 13.5 laps for the 1500m. Those distances are the same for men, who also race in a 5000m (45-lap) relay, while there is a 3000m (27-lap) relay for women.

World and Olympic champion Wang Meng is unlikely to defend her 1,000m title at the Games after breaking her ankle.

"I was pretty devastated for her, she's someone that has a lot of respect in this sport," said Scot Christie, who won European 1,000m gold in Dresden..

"But it'll make a difference. It'll be quite a lot different without her."

The Chinese 28-year-old (pictured above left with Christie in 2013) has six Olympic medals to her name, including four golds, and 18 world titles spanning more than a decade.

She damaged her ankle in training last week and while a return in time for the Games is possible, it is not thought likely.

Speaking to BBC Sport, 23-year-old Christie added: "She's an amazing athlete. It could be her last Games, and [the injury] is sad for anyone.

"She's one of the top skaters, especially tactically - she just takes control."

Tactics have traditionally been Christie's weakness, despite her status as a world bronze medallist and now double European champion in the women's 1,000m race.

Christie is known for her fast start and ability to lead the race from the front, but has recently worked hard on her strategy when things go wrong and she finds herself at the back of the pack.

She said her plans between the Europeans - her last pre-Olympic event - and the start of racing in Sochi would involve "a step back physically and a focus more on the tactical side".

British performance director Stuart Horsepool earlier said Christie was "still struggling with race tactics" despite Sunday's racing.

"I'm improving. I'm a bit more adaptable now," said Christie. "But I could still make a few more minor changes."