Although Brittany Bowe was confident she’d win the 1000m at the U.S. Olympic Speed Skating Trials, beating a certain skater’s time was a bonus.
That would be Brittany Bowe circa 2019.
Breaking her own track record, Bowe proved why she is queen of the 1000m. She glided to her third straight Olympic team Thursday evening at the famous Pettit National Ice Center in Milwaukee.
And Bowe wasn’t even peaking for the trials. She is training through the event, saving her best for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics next month.
“It’s always fun to get a track record,” Bowe said, “and with the track record being mine, to say I went fastest in this building than I ever have in my life is a pretty big confidence booster going into Beijing.”
The reigning world champion and world record holder in the event was initially pushed by speedy Erin Jackson, the top female skater in the world this year at 500 meters. But Bowe easily pulled ahead to win with a time of 1:13.63, slicing .13 off that track record, while Jackson came in at 1:15.88.
That gave Kimi Goetz, skating in a later pair, room to move into second place with a time of 1:14.89.
While Bowe is assured of going to Beijing, Goetz will have to wait to find out her fate. Team USA has a maximum of five women’s berths in Beijing. If athletes double, Goetz has a good chance to move onto the team.
OLYMPIC SPEED SKATING TRIALS: Broadcast Schedule
All three athletes will skate the 500 on Friday for two spots. A third is a possibility later if another country relinquishes a berth.
Bowe, 33, said she and Jackson had never been paired together in a 1000 until the trials.
“We were joking with each other before the race,” Bowe said. “I told her I’d have to to give her a taste of her own medicine of what she’ll probably give me tomorrow in the 500.”
Bowe was the first of the Florida Flyers to make the Olympic long track team. Bowe, Joey Mantia and Jackson are from Ocala where they were inline skaters before transferring to the ice. All are World Cup champions and were a threat to make the podium all season.
Bowe, who is also a former college basketball player, is an Olympic medal contender in the 1500, too. That race is Saturday.
She said she knew that “if I just skate solid, I should be in a good position to make the Olympic team. But again it is the Olympic Trials and you get one shot, so there’s definitely nerves and excitement there. To get this first one out of the way and have a smooth, solid race is great to get the weekend started.”
Despite coming off a concussion, Bowe won her lone Olympic medal – a bronze in team pursuit in 2018 for the only U.S. long track speed skating medal in PyeongChang. She also placed fourth in the 1000 and fifth in both the 500 and 1500. Being so close to the podium made her want an individual medal even more.
“I feel mentally and physically really strong,” Bowe said. “I hope I’m not peaked right this second. We still have about a month left of training and preparation, and to have that kind of performance at the end of what was a three-week training cycle, is pretty encouraging.”
However, Bowe was disappointed that her performance could be watched by friends, family and fans solely on television. Because of the rise in Covid-19 cases, US Speedskating decided not to allow spectators.
“It’s heartbreaking, but you understand at the same time,” Bowe said. “With us flying across the country to come here and compete, we’re playing Russian roulette every single day. You can take all the precautions, wash your hands, you can wear a mask and somehow you can still get Covid.”
She added that everyone has to control what they can. “I think it was the right move and the right call with US Speedskating and the Pettit to make that decision,” Bowe said.
Goetz counted herself lucky that her boyfriend, three-time Olympian Mitch Whitmore, and her sister, Samantha, who works for US Speedskating, were at the Pettit Center.
“I have almost felt really guilty for my friends and teammates that don’t have their loved ones here, but we have each other,” she said. “Brittany and Mitch were teammates not that long ago. I know he’s cheering for her just as much as he is for for me. Everyone has support here; I just was a little spoiled with having a little extra.”
For the 27-year-old Goetz, making the Olympic team is overdue. She was a top contender for the 2018 team – but in short track speed skating. On the first day of the trials, Goetz fell during a warmup, hit her head and was diagnosed with a concussion.
That ended her short track Olympic hopes. Leery of falling and no longer enjoying the sport, Goetz decided to switch to long track in August 2018.
“Four years ago, I wouldn’t have thought that what had happened at short track trials was a good thing,” Goetz said, “but had it not happened, I never would have switched to long track and this is definitely where I’m meant to be.
“I’m happier, which is the most important thing, and I’m performing better — just really happy with the transition over the last four years.”
Within two years of her move, Goetz had the highest finishes by any U.S. woman – including Bowe – at the 2020 World Single Distances Speed Skating Championships.
“She’s been skating unbelievable and she’s one of the fastest girls I’ve ever trained with in my life,” said Bowe, who trains with Goetz outside Salt Lake City. “She can throw down some really fast times in training and when she connects every single one of those pieces in a race she’s going to be the one to beat.
“She’s one to look out for in the future for sure.”
“That was very nice of Brittany,” Goetz said. “I definitely feel like I am still better in training than I am in racing, which is frustrating. I have a lot to work on — off the start seems to be the disconnect for me.”
In addition to working on her start, Goetz is also getting accustomed to sea level. She trains at altitude in Utah, but Milwaukee is giving her experience she’ll need in Beijing. Goetz also has been wearing a T-shirt in training to simulate sea-level conditions where there is more air resistance.
That meant that on Thursday, the Flemington, New Jersey, native also was racing more against herself than anyone else.
“Obviously, Brittany Bowe is the best in the world and I want to be as close as I can to her,” Goetz said, “but I feel like at sea-level rinks I’m learning how to execute races.”
Goetz said she had different points in the race where she wanted to attack, hoping those segments would carry her into at least second place.
“I had a feeling it wasn’t going to be first,” she said, “but that’s OK.”
Karen Rosen, who has covered every summer and winter Olympics since 1992, is a special contributor to NBCSports.com.
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