Tatiana Borodulina of Russia skates off the ice after being disqualified.

Tatiana Borodulina of Russia skates off the ice after being disqualified. Photo: Getty Images

It's almost too perfect. The Russian/Australian double-defector Tatiana Borodulina is down and out after two false starts - in the first heat of an event in which she was a fancied medal chance.

Australia moved heaven and Earth to get the four-time European champion to Vancouver four years ago, only to lose her back to a lucrative offer from the Russians for Sochi. And all that effort is gone in a couple of seconds, to a couple of nervous twitches from her front foot.

Dream over: Double-defector Tatiana Borodulina.

Dream over: Double-defector Tatiana Borodulina. Photo: AP

Just deserts for yet another athlete who comes, uses our program and resources when it suits, then quits the country for a better offer, right?

But hold your schadenfreude. No-one back at the Australia camp was cheering. Instead there's sadness at what might have been.

The look on her poster-girl face said it all. A kind of shock and disbelief. She hadn't even had time to process it.

It was Heat 1 in her preferred 500m short track speed skating event: she was a genuine medal chance after the favourite's shock withdrawal. Borodulina scrambled into a promising position. But the gun fired twice: a false start. A quick cruise around the ice and back to the line. And then again, that double report, and she skated slowly off the rink, to scattered boos from the home crowd.

As she strode past the media she half-turned when her name was called, then grimly shook her head and disappeared.

The 31 year-old was a star signing for Australia shortly after Torino in 2006 – where she was disqualified in both her races.

She moved from Siberia to Brisbane, and Australia was so keen to get her to the 2010 Olympics they changed Australia's Citizenship Act to get her a passport in time.

But already the Russians were trying to tempt her back. She had a disappointing – by her standards – performance in Vancouver, failing to qualify for the finals in a race marred by two false starts.

Australia couldn't match Russia's subsequent, generous offer, even if Borodulina had wanted to stay – which she didn't, as her mother was unwell back in Russia, and she didn't like the climate or the facilities in Brisbane.

“She was a bit of an introverted person, she never came out of her shell to embrace social opportunities,” said Geoff Lipshut, head of Australia's Olympic Winter Institute. “All she did was skate.”

Mainly, he said, the Russians wanted her back to complete their relay team, almost guaranteeing them a medal in Sochi.

“I am upset it didn't work out for her (in the 500m),” Lipshut said. “She is a nice person, genuine, and she was very upset when she felt she let us down in Vancouver.”

Her time in Australia is one of the reasons why Australia now has one of its best speed skating prospects: 18 year-old rising star Deanna Lockett, who trained daily with Borodulina in Brisbane.

“To have learnt from a high-end international skater – the fact Deanna is doing so well is largely due to her her,” Lipshut said. “It's no coincidence that Deanna emerged shortly after (starting to train with Borodulina).”

However he believes Lockett could be doing even better had Borodulina stuck around for a few years after Vancouver.

“The fact is, another two years would have been helpful,” he said. But the two years after that would have been tricky, as each skater would need a different training regimen to fit their strengths.

“It's tragic (what happened to Borodulina in Sochi),” Lipshut said. But the focus is now on Lockett, and her – hopefully golden – future.

Meanwhile it's not the end for Borodulina.

She still has the 1000m and the 1500m events, though they are not her forte. And, of course, there is the relay, where this string of false starts might still get a happy ending.