Brittany Bowe starts abbreviated international season, hungry to return as queen of 1000m

ISU World Cup Speed Skating Final - Heerenveen
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Inspired by “The Queen’s Gambit,” speed skater Brittany Bowe wants to learn to play chess.

She’ll have plenty of time to take up a new sport while ensconced in the month-long “bubble” surrounding two World Cups and the ISU World Single Distances Speed Skating Championships in Heerenveen, Netherlands.

Bowe asked Matt Kooreman, a US Speedskating coach and chess aficionado, to bring a chessboard on the trip.

“It’s a huge mental game and I love that aspect of it,” Bowe said. “He said, ‘You better be careful, though, or you’re going to become obsessed with it.’ He knows where my mind is at.”

Well, actually, she’s more obsessed with recapturing her position as the Queen of the 1000m.

Spanning the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons, Bowe won seven straight races – a record for a U.S. woman – and set the world record of 1 minute, 11.61 seconds before finishing fifth in a World Cup in Calgary, Alberta.

She then had a horrendous outing at the 2020 World Championships on home ice in Kearns, Utah, outside Salt Lake City, which magnified her disappointment. Not only did Bowe fail to make the podium for the first time in any event since 2012, she placed eighth in the 1000m and wasn’t even the top American.

Bowe rebounded with third place in a 1000m race at the World Sprint Championships, finishing sixth in the overall standings, and a silver in the 1000m at the final World Cup in Heerenveen.

“It was a great year overshadowed by great disappointments those two weekends, in particular the one weekend with the world championships,” Bowe said, “so it definitely relit my fire. I’m more determined than ever.”

When Bowe opens her 2021 season in the first World Cup on Friday at the Thialf venue, it will be her first international competition in nearly a year. The second World Cup will be Jan. 29-31, then athletes will remain in Heerenveen for the World Championships Feb. 11-14.

“I’ve been itching to race all season,” said Bowe, who will turn 33 on Feb. 24. “Without having the excitement of racing, training can become pretty monotonous, and tough at times – not to sugarcoat it – so to get word of the hub happening, it’s really, really exciting. I’m super grateful to have the opportunity to race this season.

“My physical fitness feels awesome. I feel mentally and physically strong and I feel confident.”

The national championships, scheduled for December, were cancelled due to the pandemic, so Bowe was one of the athletes who qualified for the trip based on their season’s best times.

Rising star Kimi Goetz, one of her top rivals, decided not to travel due to concerns about the coronavirus, but Bowe said she had no hesitation.

“The beauty of being part of US Speedskating is we get to choose what’s best for us,” said Bowe, who has 26 World Cup victories and nine medals at the single distance world championships. “There are six of us that have accepted our role on the team. For those that haven’t, I totally respect their decision and what’s best for them, and obviously they will be missed on the road.”

Bowe said that in the run-up to the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, it was important for her to feel the nerves and anxiety that come with international competition.

“Obviously I want to do well and be competitive and win when I go over to Europe,” she said, “but just working through those emotions are just as valuable as a medal at this point going into an Olympic year.”

But Bowe knows her 11th World Cup season will be very different in more ways than just the abbreviated schedule. For starters, there will be no spectators in the Thialf arena.

“Normally it’s the best atmosphere in the entire world to skate in, the speed skating mecca of the world,” said Bowe.

Athletes will be restricted to their hotels and must ask for permission to go out for a walk, run or bike ride. They will also undergo regular testing.

“There will be some form of isolation,” Bowe said, “but we know what we signed up for.”

She said she has tried not to dwell on what happened a year ago.

During “an unbelievable season,” Bowe broke the U.S. women’s record for consecutive victories that she shared with Bonnie Blair and Heather Bergsma. She averaged better than a half-second margin of victory during the streak while setting track records in six of her seven wins. An eighth straight win would have tied German speed skater Anni Friesinger-Postma’s all-time mark from the 2007-08 season.

“And kind of the world comes crashing down there in January and February,” said Bowe. “Each year our goal is to be a world champion, and for one reason or another, it didn’t work out for me. The stars were not aligned for me.”

At the time, she called the experience “a nightmare.”

Following her “bittersweet” silver medal to cap the season, Bowe went home to Florida for a couple of months to isolate during the pandemic with her mother and sister. For exercise, Bowe relied on inline skating, where she got her competitive start before switching to ice.

“I could not be more grateful for the time that we got together, all the TikToks we made, and just getting to have fun with each other,” Bowe said.

Upon her return to Utah, she was determined to “push the distance side of things.” Bowe had started last season with a podium finish in the 1500m and won two bronze medals in the event, but was dissatisfied with her performance.

“I just wasn’t feeling strong in that race,” Bowe said, “so this summer and fall and into the winter, I’m really, really focused on getting back to that competitive edge in the 1500m.”

During the time trials held in Utah this season, Bowe posted her two fastest 1500m times outside of World Cups, clocking 1:52.25 on Jan. 2 and 1:52.79 in November.

“With no atmosphere and subpar ice conditions, I would say I am thrilled with that,” said Bowe, whose American record is 1:50.32. Her best 1000m time this season is 1:13.66 in October.

Next season she’ll return to concentrating on the speed aspect of her sport in hopes of securing the individual Olympic medal which has eluded her.

“Sochi was probably the biggest disappointment of my sporting career, going in as a medal contender and falling far short,” said Bowe, who placed eighth in the 1000m at the 2014 Games.

A severe concussion disrupted her training for the PyeongChang Olympics where Bowe just missed the podium in the 1000m with a fourth-place result and was fifth in the 1500m.

“That wasn’t a disappointing moment for me, although it was upsetting,” said Bowe, who clinched the team pursuit bronze medal with Bergsma, Mia Manganello and Carlijn Schoutens. “Going into PyeongChang was a much different situation coming off my head injury and a year of rehabilitation, so I was just grateful to be able to compete in the Olympics at that point.”

She’s not sure if she’ll retire after the Beijing Games, but will go through an evaluation process.

“I’ll be 33, going on 34 at the Olympics, so I am getting up there in age – and that’s something to consider,” Bowe said. “The world is definitely not slowing down. There’s always someone bigger, faster, stronger coming up under you. That’s just the natural progression of everything in life.

“But if things do go well there, on one hand you could say it was a great career and end it there. On the other hand, as an athlete you’re always hungry for more and you kind of thrive off that victorious feeling. Is it easy to stop once you’re winning? I would say, ‘Absolutely not.’”

French Open: Daniil Medvedev stunned by 172nd-ranked qualifier

Thiago Seyboth Wild

No. 2 seed Daniil Medvedev was eliminated by 172nd-ranked Brazilian qualifier Thiago Seyboth Wild at the French Open, the first time a top-two men’s seed lost in the first round of a major in 20 years.

Seyboth Wild, a 23-year-old in his second-ever Grand Slam main draw match, prevailed 7-6 (5), 6-7 (8), 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 in more than four hours on Court Philippe-Chatrier.

“I’ve watched Daniil play for, like, my entire junior career until today, and I’ve always dreamed about playing on this court, playing these kind of players,” he said. “In my best dreams, I’ve beaten them, so it’s a dream come true.”

Seyboth Wild overcame the ranking disparity, the experience deficit (it was his first five-set match) and cramps. He began feeling them in the second set, and it affected his serve.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Women | Men | Broadcast Schedule

Seyboth Wild, who had strictly played in qualifying and lower-level Challenger events dating to February 2022, became the first man to take out a top-two seed at a Slam since Ivo Karlovic upset Lleyton Hewitt at 2003 Wimbledon, which ended up being the first major won by a member of the Big Three.

The last time it happened at the French Open was in 2000, when Mark Philippoussis ousted No. 2 Pete Sampras.

It’s the most seismic win by a Brazilian at the French Open — and perhaps any major — since the nation’s most successful man, Gustavo Kuerten, won his third Roland Garros title in 2001.

Tuesday marked the 26th anniversary of Kuerten’s first big splash in Paris, a third-round win over 1995 French Open champion Thomas Muster en route to his first Roland Garros title.

As a junior, Seyboth Wild won the 2018 U.S. Open and reached a best ranking of eighth in the world. Since, he played eight Grand Slam qualifying tournaments with a 1-8 record before advancing through qualifying last week.

The 2021 U.S. Open champion Medvedev entered the French Open having won the first clay tournament title of his career at the Italian Open, the last top-level event before Roland Garros.

Medvedev’s defeat leaves no major champions in the bottom half of the men’s draw. The top seeds left are No. 4 Casper Ruud, last year’s French Open and U.S. Open runner-up, and No. 6 Holger Rune. No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz and No. 3 Novak Djokovic play their second-round matches in the top half on Wednesday.

Women’s seeds to advance Tuesday included No. 6 Coco Gauff, who rallied past 71st-ranked Spaniard Rebeka Masarova 3-6, 6-1, 6-2, plus No. 4 Elena Rybakina and No. 7 Ons Jabeur in straight sets.

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Olympians, Paralympians star on Top Chef World All-Stars in Paris


U.S. Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls get a taste of Paris in this week’s episode of Top Chef World All-Stars, premiering Thursday at 9 p.m. ET on Bravo.

Olympic medalists Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone and Suni Lee and Paralympic medalists Mallory Weggemann and Hunter Woodhall team up with contestants for a cooking challenge in front of the Eiffel Tower, one year before the French capital hosts the Games.

Olympians have appeared on Top Chef before.

A 2020 episode set at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Coliseum included Diana Taurasi, Rai Benjamin, Nastia Liukin, Ibtihaj Muhammad, Christian Coleman and Kerri Walsh Jennings.

A January 2018 episode featured figure skater Meryl Davis, freeskier Gus Kenworthy and skeleton slider John Daly, one month before the PyeongChang Winter Games.

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