Elise Christie starts her build-up to next year's Winter Olympics with a target on her back, according to British short track speed skating coach Stuart Horsepool.
Christie was ranked number one in the world over 1000m last year and won bronze over the distance at the World Championships.
She will lead a nine-strong British team at season's opening World Cup in Shanghai this week but Horsepool knows the 23-year old is a watched women.
“There will be a lot of tactics involved so one of the key things for our athletes to take from this event is to learn as much about how others are skating this year," said Horsepool.
"Elise, for example, could be a target for some nations seeing as she was ranked world number one in the 1000-metres last season, and her characteristic style of skating, leading from the front of the pack, has become a trademark.
“It has been important for all the athletes, as well as Elise, to work on different styles of racing and it’s something we have been looking at since the World Championships in March.
“This is our first competition against the big skating nations, like China, South Korea and Canada since last season. There’s going to be fierce competition and it’s going be interesting to see how some nations are choosing to skate tactically, particularly in the relays.
"Training for the World Cups has gone well and we are pleased with their preparations, but racing in short track is inherently unpredictable and nothing is certain until they are over the finish line.”
Paul Stanley, Jon Eley, Richard Shoebridge, and Jack Whelbourne will compete in individual events as well as the men’s 5000-metre relay, with Joshua Cheetham as the acting reserve for the relay. The women’s 3000-metre relay comprises of Christie, Charlotte Gilmartin, Alex Stanley and Kathryn Thomson, who will all also be competing in individual events.
“This is our first time racing on the world circuit this season, so obviously there are a few nerves, but everyone’s really excited to race now," said Christie.
"I was really pleased how I did in the World Cups last season, but with the Olympics and the qualifiers for that coming up, the experience and race practice here is pretty much as important as the result.”
© Sportsbeat 2013
Image: David Tyrrell