Speed skating: Christie devastated as pandemic forces Britain out of worlds

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ISU World Short Track Speed Skating Championships

LONDON (Reuters) - Triple gold medallist Elise Christie said she was devastated after Britain announced on Tuesday it had withdrawn from next month's short track speed skating world championships in the Netherlands due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.

British Ice Skating said all UK residents were currently barred from entering the country and exemptions for elite athletes were not being granted.

Christie, Holly Hoyland and Niall Treacy had been due to represent Britain at the March 5-7 championships in Dordrecht.

Britain also withdrew from the European championships in Gdansk, Poland, in January.

"The World Championships was our light at the end of the tunnel," said Christie, who won her golds at the 2017 world championships in Rotterdam.

"I was so excited, as were the rest of the team, to finally race. As this is one of my last years in the sport I’m devastated.

"I’m gutted for my two young team mates," added the 30-year-old. "We can only look forward to the Olympic season now and what it can bring us. We will be there ready to fight."

The next Winter Olympics are scheduled for Beijing in 2022.

Christie has skated at three previous Olympics, without medalling after the agony of repeatedly crashing out or being disqualified.

She has spoken out about mental health issues and her battle with depression and anxiety.

Treacy and Hoyland had been set to make their senior world championship debuts.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Christian Radnedge)