World No. 1 skater Erin Jackson misses Olympic team, Bowe and Stolz double up


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.”


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

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Helen Maroulis stars in wrestling documentary, with help from Chris Pratt

Helen Maroulis, Chris Pratt

One of the remarkable recent Olympic comeback stories is the subject of a film that will be shown nationwide in theaters for one day only on Thursday.

“Helen | Believe” is a documentary about Helen Maroulis, the first U.S. Olympic women’s wrestling champion. It is produced by Religion of Sports, the venture founded by Gotham Chopra, Michael Strahan and Tom Brady. Showing details are here.

After taking gold at the 2016 Rio Games, Maroulis briefly retired in 2019 during a two-year stretch in which she dealt with concussions and post-traumatic stress disorder. The film focuses on that period and her successful bid to return and qualify for the Tokyo Games, where she took bronze.

In a poignant moment in the film, Maroulis described her “rock bottom” — being hospitalized for suicidal ideations.

In an interview, Maroulis said she was first approached about the project in 2018, the same year she had her first life-changing concussion that January. A wrestling partner’s mother was connected to director Dylan Mulick.

Maroulis agreed to the film in part to help spread mental health awareness in sports. Later, she cried while watching the 2020 HBO film, “The Weight of Gold,” on the mental health challenges that other Olympians faced, because it resonated with her so much.

“When you’re going through something, it sometimes gives you an anchor of hope to know that someone’s been through it before, and they’ve overcome it,” she said.

Maroulis’ comeback story hit a crossroads at the Olympic trials in April 2021, where the winner of a best-of-three finals series in each weight class made Team USA.

Maroulis won the opening match against Jenna Burkert, but then lost the second match. Statistically, a wrestler who loses the second match in a best-of-three series usually loses the third. But Maroulis pinned Burkert just 22 seconds into the rubber match to clinch the Olympic spot.

Shen then revealed that she tore an MCL two weeks earlier.

“They told me I would have to be in a brace for six weeks,” she said then. “I said, ‘I don’t have that. I have two and a half.’”

Maroulis said she later asked the director what would have happened if she didn’t make the team for Tokyo. She was told the film still have been done.

“He had mentioned this isn’t about a sports story or sports comeback story,” Maroulis said. “This is about a human story. And we’re using wrestling as the vehicle to tell this story of overcoming and healing and rediscovering oneself.”

Maroulis said she was told that, during filming, the project was pitched to the production company of actor Chris Pratt, who wrestled in high school in Washington. Pratt signed on as a producer.

“Wrestling has made an impact on his life, and so he wants to support these kinds of stories,” said Maroulis, who appeared at last month’s Santa Barbara Film Festival with Pratt.

Pratt said he knew about Maroulis before learning about the film, which he said “needed a little help to get it over the finish line,” according to a public relations company promoting the film.

The film also highlights the rest of the six-woman U.S. Olympic wrestling team in Tokyo. Four of the six won a medal, including Tamyra Mensah-Stock‘s gold.

“I was excited to be part of, not just (Maroulis’) incredible story, but also helping to further advance wrestling and, in particular, female wrestling,” Pratt said, according to responses provided by the PR company from submitted questions. “To me, the most compelling part of Helen’s story is the example of what life looks like after a person wins a gold medal. The inevitable comedown, the trauma around her injuries, the PTSD, the drive to continue that is what makes her who she is.”

Maroulis, who now trains in Arizona, hopes to qualify for this year’s world championships and next year’s Olympics.

“I try to treat every Games as my last,” she said. “Now I’m leaning toward being done [after 2024], but never say never.”

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IOC recommends how Russia, Belarus athletes can return as neutrals

Thomas Bach

The IOC updated its recommendations to international sports federations regarding Russian and Belarusian athletes, advising that they can return to competitions outside of the Olympics as neutral athletes in individual events and only if they do not actively support the war in Ukraine. Now, it’s up to those federations to decide if and how they will reinstate the athletes as 2024 Olympic qualifying heats up.

The IOC has not made a decision on the participation of Russian or Belarusian athletes for the Paris Games and will do so “at the appropriate time,” IOC President Thomas Bach said Tuesday.

Most international sports federations for Olympic sports banned Russian and Belarusian athletes last year following IOC recommendations to do so after the invasion of Ukraine.

Bach was asked Tuesday what has changed in the last 13 months that led to the IOC updating its recommendations.

He reiterated previous comments that, after the invasion and before the initial February 2022 recommendations, some governments refused to issue visas for Russians and Belarusians to compete, and other governments threatened withdrawing funding from athletes who competed against Russians and Belarusians. He also said the safety of Russians and Belarusians at competitions was at risk at the time.

Bach said that Russians and Belarusians have been competing in sports including tennis, the NHL and soccer (while not representing their countries) and that “it’s already working.”

“The question, which has been discussed in many of these consultations, is why should what is possible in all these sports not be possible in swimming, table tennis, wrestling or any other sport?” Bach said.

Bach then read a section of remarks that a United Nations cultural rights appointee made last week.

“We have to start from agreeing that these states [Russia and Belarus] are going to be excluded,” Bach read, in part. “The issue is what happens with individuals. … The blanket prohibition of Russian and Belarusian athletes and artists cannot continue. It is a flagrant violation of human rights. The idea is not that we are going to recognize human rights to people who are like us and with whom we agree on their actions and on their behavior. The idea is that anyone has the right not to be discriminated on the basis of their passport.”

The IOC’s Tuesday recommendations included not allowing “teams of athletes” from Russia and Belarus to return.

If Russia continues to be excluded from team sports and team events, it could further impact 2024 Olympic qualification.

The international basketball federation (FIBA) recently set an April 28 deadline to decide whether to allow Russia to compete in an Olympic men’s qualifying tournament. For women’s basketball, the draw for a European Olympic qualifying tournament has already been made without Russia.

In gymnastics, the ban has already extended long enough that, under current rules, Russian gymnasts cannot qualify for men’s and women’s team events at the Paris Games, but can still qualify for individual events if the ban is lifted.

Gymnasts from Russia swept the men’s and women’s team titles in Tokyo, where Russians in all sports competed for the Russian Olympic Committee rather than for Russia due to punishment for the nation’s doping violations. There were no Russian flags or anthems, conditions that the IOC also recommends for any return from the current ban for the war in Ukraine.

Seb Coe, the president of World Athletics, said last week that Russian and Belarusian athletes remain banned from track and field for the “foreseeable future.”

World Aquatics, the international governing body for swimming, diving and water polo, said after the IOC’s updated recommendations that it will continue to “consider developments impacting the situation” of Russian and Belarusian athletes and that “further updates will be provided when appropriate.”

The IOC’s sanctions against Russia and Belarus and their governments remain in place, including disallowing international competitions to be held in those countries.

On Monday, Ukraine’s sports minister said in a statement that Ukraine “strongly urges” that Russian and Belarusian athletes remain banned.

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