Brittany Bowe and Jordan Stolz did what they were expected to do Friday. Erin Jackson did not.
While Bowe and Stolz won their second races at the U.S. Olympic Speed Skating Trials, Jackson’s trip to the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics may have slipped away with one mid-race bobble.
Jackson, the world’s No. 1 skater at 500m, fought back from the misstep to finish with the third-fastest time behind Bowe and Kimi Goetz. Jackson had hoped to get a re-skate, but officials at the Pettit National Ice Center in Milwaukee ruled against her.
While Bowe and Goetz qualified for the two women’s quota spots in the 500, Jackson must wait and see if a third spot is awarded to the United States. Another country could give up a spot leading to a reallocation.
“I feel like I messed up,” Jackson said on the USA television broadcast with a rueful smile. “It’s definitely on me, but it would be awesome to get that re-skate, especially not just being No. 1-ranked in the U.S., but No. 1-ranked in the world. It would be kind of strange to not go.”
The three skaters finished in the same order on Thursday night in the 1000.
Bowe, 33, was the first of the women on the ice as none of the Top 3 went head-to-head. She posted a time of 37.81 seconds.
Jackson, 29, was in the next pair and the uncharacteristic wobble on the backstretch caused her speed to melt away.
“I could hear someone, I think it was Brittany, say, ‘Get back into your skating,’” Jackson said of Bowe, who has been her teammate since they were inline skaters in Ocala, Florida. “I was just trying to salvage whatever I could and make it to the finish line and cross my fingers.”
OLYMPIC SPEED SKATING TRIALS: Broadcast Schedule
Her time was 38.24. But Goetz, 27, was up next. She came around in 37.85 to clinch her Olympic berth in both the 500 and the 1000. The United States only has five total women’s berths at the Games with two races remaining — the 1500, in which Bowe and Goetz are again the top contenders, and the mass start.
The American men are only guaranteed to have one entrant in the 500 in Beijing so far, and that will be Stolz, who clocked 34.55 to break his second track record. Jun-Ho Kim of South Korea had the previous record of 34.59 set two years ago.
Stolz, 17, is the American record holder at 34.11, set on Dec. 10. That is also the junior world record.
On Thursday, he set his first track record in the 1000, breaking a 16-year-old mark held by Olympic gold medalist Shani Davis.
If enough U.S. men double up in events for Team USA to send a second entrant in the 500, Austin Kleba, who had a time of 35.17, would get the nod.
Stolz has gotten a confidence boost from the trials.
“I think I can get in the top five at the Olympic Games,” he said. “If somebody has a bad race or something, there’s always that possibility for a medal.”
A bad race is something Jackson now knows too well. Her fate hung in the balance for more than half an hour as she waited to find out if she would get another chance.
“Right now, unfortunately, there’s nothing that can be done rule-wise to get her in the Olympics,” said Matt Kooreman, the US Speedskating long track program director. “It really is kind of winner-take-all here at the Olympic Trials.”
It turns out that Jackson’s competitiveness and integrity may have worked against her. There are certain “protections” in place for medal contenders like her. If they are sick and cannot compete, they can petition onto the team. If they compete and have a mechanical failure or fall down, they get a re-skate.
Because Jackson stayed upright and finished, she skated her way out from under the protections.
“Everything felt good; it was going as planned,” Jackson said. “On the backstretch, I’m not really sure what happened. I lost my footing a bit, almost went down, saved it.”
In hindsight, that cost her.
“Of course, it flashed in my head, maybe I should have sat down,” said Jackson, who has also competed in roller derby. “I think it’s just a bad thing to encourage that. When it comes to a race like the 500, there should be special considerations — when it comes down to such a tiny time difference.”
Kooreman said he can remember people falling and making national teams after a re-skate, but he’d never seen anyone slip and miss out on a team.
“No one’s instinct is to fall down,” Kooreman said. “If you have a little slip, you just skate through it.”
He said there is a slip “in almost every race,” so that’s why a slip doesn’t warrant a re-skate. “You risk running re-skate after re-skate,” Kooreman said. “But it’s really tricky. It’s super unfortunate because Erin Jackson is just a complete class act and one of the best skaters we’ve ever had. To see this happen to her in particular, it’s heartbreaking.”
In 2018, Jackson was the first Black woman to make a U.S. Olympic team in long track. The former inline world champion had only four months of serious training under her belt when she came into those trials. She finished 24th at the Olympics and was determined to see what would happen four years later.
On the recent World Cup circuit, Jackson won four of the eight 500s and set the American record of 36.80 seconds in Salt Lake City in early December.
“She is the World Cup leader, so that goes without saying she’s currently the best in the world,” Bowe said.
Jackson does have another possible route to Beijing: Bowe or Goetz could give up their spot in the 500.
“Each of them looks at their schedule, and what works best for them,” Kooreman said. “The position I’m in, I don’t want to unnecessarily influence either of them.”
He added, “We don’t want anyone to think they got pushed out of a position.”
ON HER TURF: Erin Jackson will need teammates’ help
The final nomination date is Jan. 17 and US Speedskating does not take alternates to the Games.
“All I can do is wait and see if someone declines their spot, then I could go,” Jackson said. “It’s really disappointing of course, but I’m not giving up hope yet. Just kind of maybe waiting and seeing what shakes out. We’ll see.”
Stolz also had an imperfect race, but it was much less noticeable. Just like in the 1000, he had a little problem going into the last turn and wasn’t able to capitalize as much as he wanted on the G-forces.
Without that error, Stolz said, “It would have been really fast.”
He joins Eric Heiden and Emery Lehman as the only 17-year-olds to make a U.S. Olympic men’s speed skating team.
Stolz is from nearby Kewaskum, Wisconsin, and his parents were in the building as volunteers.
“It’s just too bad that the other parents couldn’t be here,” Stolz said. “It’s really nice to have them be here, have them see me make the team. It’s kind of a big thing.”
Kleba hopes it’s a big thing for him as well. He needs enough athletes, such as Joey Mantia, who is favored in the 1500 and the mass start and was second in the 1000, to double and triple.
“I’m crossing my fingers,” said Kleba, who like Stolz was a Youth Olympian. “I did everything I could up to now. Whatever the result or outcome is, I’m happy with my performance for sure.”
Kleba said that although there is usually overlap, because of how the team qualified the second 500 “if our team got too full and they needed to basically kick someone off the team, the second 500-meter spot unfortunately would be the first to go.”
Karen Rosen, who has covered every summer and winter Olympics since 1992, is a special contributor to NBCSports.com.
OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!