Hopes are rising for the U.S. to win its first individual Olympic speed skating medal since 2010 after the first two days of the World Cup season. Thank the city of Ocala, Florida.
Brittany Bowe and Erin Jackson won races in Poland on Saturday, a day after Jackson became the first Black woman to win a long-track World Cup race. Also Saturday, Joey Mantia placed third in the men’s 1500m.
Bowe, Jackson and Mantia all grew up in Ocala, training at different times under inline coach Renee Hildebrand before converting to the ice. Hildebrand, a grandmother in her late 50s, has molded skaters at a roller rink behind a Save A Lot.
Bowe, the most accomplished active U.S. speed skater, earned her 31st World Cup victory, taking the 1000m in 1:14.78. She is the reigning world champion and world-record holder in the event and was fourth at the 2018 Olympics, missing a medal by .38.
Jackson won a 500m for the second consecutive day. She clocked 37.55 seconds, again defeating a field that included the reigning Olympic champion and all three 2021 World Championships medalists. Jackson, who took up speed skating four months before qualifying for PyeongChang, came into the season with a best World Cup finish of ninth.
“I’m still learning,” Jackson joked with Dutch broadcaster NOS. “I was watching the video from [Friday’s win] and thinking, that’s kind of embarrassing skating, but I’ll take the win.”
Mantia, a three-time world champion in the mass start, took third in the 1500m on Saturday.
In 2014, the U.S. was shut out of the Olympic speed skating medals for the first time since 1984. In 2018, the U.S. earned one bronze in the women’s team pursuit (including Bowe). The U.S.’ last individual medal was Shani Davis‘ silver in the 1500m in 2010.
Speed skating is the U.S.’ most successful Winter Olympic sport by total medals and gold medals. Only the Netherlands and Norway have won more Olympic speed skating medals than the U.S.
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