SHORT track speed skating star Charlotte Gilmartin hailed the her overall second placed finish at the Sochi 2016 European Championships as the best achievement of her career so far.
The Redditch ace showed admirable focus and determination to recover from a frustrating first two days of competition in Russia to produce a fine performance in the crucial 3,000m super final during Sunday’s final day of racing.
An elated Gilmartin, a European Championship 1,500m bronze medallist in 2013, said: “I am really happy to come away with my first overall medal in the European Championships here in Sochi.
“The team support has been incredible and been a real team effort. To perform so well in the final race of the championship topped off a remarkable championship for me.”
Following an incredible conclusion to the championships, Great Britain left the competition with Elise Christie as European champion for the second year running, Gilmartin close behind in second to take the overall silver medal and the men’s relay team with bronze in the 5,000m relay A final.
Gilmartin, 25, qualified in all three distances – 500, 1,000m and 1,500m – on Friday, but on Saturday she had problems with her skates and had to settle for sixth and seventh places in the 500m and 1,500m races respectively, meaning she narrowly missed out on the A finals, but she was able to triumph in the subsequent B finals at both distances.
That left the former Arrow Vale High School pupil in eighth place overall with the 1,000m to follow on Sunday.
“It was roller-coaster weekend for me,” Gilmartin told the Standard.
“I had problems with my skates and was slipping a lot, so I was pretty frustrated with my results over the first two days because I knew I was capable of much more.
“However, I made some changes and managed to improve my performance, which was good enough for me to reach the A final of Sunday’s 1,000m, which is my weakest distance.
“I slipped again in that final actually, but managed to finish fourth which was a good result and proved enough for me to be among the overall top eight which then contested the 3,000m super final.”
With the dominant Christie already assured of claiming the overall women’s gold medal after a series of brilliant performances which saw her triumph at every distance in the women’s events, Gilmartin knew the success of the weekend hinged on the final longer distance race and she delivered when it mattered.
“It was a cagey race and there was a disqualification which took me from third place to second but, given the difficulties I had experienced over the previous two days, I was really pleased with how I raced in the super final.
“It means so much to me. I won two B finals, came fourth in an A final and finished second overall, so that’s not a bad effort at all.
“Elise (Christie) absolutely blitzed it and I gave it everything I had, so to be rewarded with a one-two on the podium for Great Britain is fantastic for both of us.
“I had nothing to lose in that final race and it was a tight finish to the line, but it went well for me and I’ve come away with a great result even though it wasn’t my best weekend of racing overall.
“I can now look forward to the forthcoming World Cups with confidence and really focus on my training and racing with the main focus being my bid to win a medal at the World Championships in Seoul, South Korea, in mid-March.”
Before that Gilmartin and Christie will be joined by GB team-mates Jennifer Pickering and Kathryn Thomson at the next ISU World Cup event in Dresden, Germany, between February 5-7 and Gilmartin said it was a significant moment for women’s short track speed skating.
“It’s the first time GB will be entering a women’s relay team into a World Cup and Elise and myself are very proud of that because it shows the progress we are making as a squad and can act as inspiration to others.”