Erin Jackson will go for gold at Olympics after friend Brittany Bowe gives up 500m spot


That’s what friends are for.

Erin Jackson is going to the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, thanks to a generous gesture by her good friend Brittany Bowe.

On Sunday, Bowe, who qualified for three events at the U.S. Olympic Speed Skating Trials, gave her spot in the 500m to Jackson, the No. 1-ranked skater in the event.

This will be the third Olympics for Bowe and the second for Jackson, who in 2018 became the first Black woman to make the U.S. Olympic long track speed skating team after just four months of serious on-ice training.

“It’s the right thing to do,” Bowe told “There’s not a doubt in my mind that she wouldn’t do the same thing for me.”

Jackson had an unfortunate bobble in the race Friday, watching her hopes for an Olympic gold medal slip away when she finished third behind Bowe and Kimi Goetz. Only two U.S. women are guaranteed Olympic berths, although a third spot is a possibility due to reallocation from other nations later.

“She has earned her spot; she deserves it,” said Bowe, who is ranked No. 1 in the world in the 1000 and is also an Olympic medal threat in the 1500.

The 500 was not Bowe’s top priority this season, although she still holds out hope that the U.S. will receive that third quota spot. “I would love to race in it,” she said. “Hopefully all three of us will.”

However, Bowe, 33, knew that if Jackson didn’t get on the team, she wouldn’t be eligible if that spot eventually came up.

On Saturday night, Bowe received a text from US Speedskating reminding her of the champagne celebration Sunday for the Olympic team at the Pettit National Ice Center in Milwaukee. “I couldn’t have had a celebratory time without Erin,” Bowe told reporters.

She called Jackson on Sunday morning to give her the good news before she informed US Speedskating of her decision.

That gave Jackson peace of mind. The 29-year-old, who won four of the eight 500m races on the World Cup circuit last fall, didn’t sleep at all after her mistake. “I couldn’t turn my brain off,” said Jackson. “It’s been really stressful, just kind of being in limbo for so long.”

Although she took full responsibility for her slip on the ice, Jackson said the disappointment of not skating a good race was compounded by “potentially missing out on the Olympics after a season I’ve been really proud of. It was really devastating.”

And then she got the call from Bowe. They go way back, meeting when Jackson was 10 and joined an inline skating club in Ocala, Florida. The skaters still laugh about a photo showing Jackson standing between Bowe and three-time Olympian Joey Mantia and barely coming up to their chests.

Jackson said she felt “really overwhelming emotions.”

ON HER TURF: Erin Jackson will compete in Beijing

“Just for her to do something like this for me, it’s amazing,” she said. “I’m just incredibly grateful. I’m really humbled, and she’s just an amazing person.”

Actually, the idea of relinquishing her spot had been percolating in Bowe’s mind ever since Jackson was denied a re-skate following her 500m faux pas.

“In my heart there was never a question that I would do whatever it took if it came down to me to get Erin to skate the Olympics,” Bowe said.

She said she even told Jackson that before they left the building on Friday night, and she gave her a hug.

“I had to selfishly refocus on my 1500m, so we didn’t talk at all yesterday,” Bowe said. “I can’t even imagine how stressed she’s been the past few days.”

Feeling her friend’s heartbreak, Bowe knew she had to act. “It’s just the spirit of the Olympics and being a great teammate,” Bowe said, “and yes, it’s bigger than just me. It’s Team USA. Erin has a shot to bring home a medal, hopefully a gold medal, and it’s my honor to give her that opportunity.”

Mia Manganello Kilburg, who made the Olympic team in the 1500m and mass start, was Bowe’s teammate in 2018 when they won an Olympic bronze medal in team pursuit. That was the only Team USA long track medal in the past two Olympic Games.

“It’s just honorable,” Manganello Kilburg said of Bowe. “It’s something that I assumed somebody would do, and she’s an amazing person, an amazing teammate.”

And now through that act of sportsmanship, Jackson has been given an opportunity that she thought was lost. That “makes it 10 times more awesome going into Beijing,” she said.

Jackson will strive to win the first gold medal in the 500 for Team USA since Bonnie Blair won three straight in 1988, 1992 and 1994. She has a much better chance to get it than Bowe, whose best World Cup finish in the event this season is eighth.

“Going into it, no matter what, I’ve got my eyes on the top spot,” Jackson said, “but this just makes it so much sweeter that I was kind of given this gift from a very close friend of mine. It would be awesome for both of us to be able to stand at the top of the podium in our races and share that moment.”

They already share one of the feel-good moments in the run-up to the embattled Beijing Games.

On Sunday, the trials concluded with the men’s and women’s mass start, the chaotic pack-style races. Two Olympic qualifiers were held in late October, with the trials the final event to determine one guaranteed spot in the men’s and women’s events. Coaches also had the discretion to pick the second male and female athletes.

Ian Quinn pulled away to win the men’s race and secure his Olympic berth with 150 overall points. Quinn is a former short track speed skater and put that experience to his advantage in the 16-lap race.

“I use gut instinct,” Quinn said. “If you try to plan too much you’ll end up overthinking it.”

Mantia, the three-time world champion in mass start, was sixth and became the discretionary pick by the U.S. coaches. He accumulated 146 points for second overall.

Giorgia Birkeland won the women’s race, followed by Manganello Kilburg, who nabbed the guaranteed berth with 174 points.

“She is a huge star to come,” Manganello Kilburg said of the 19-year-old Birkeland, who was the discretionary pick, sitting fourth in the mass start series.

This U.S. team is composed of seven men and five women. The others added to the team Sunday were Austin Kleba in the men’s 500 and 5000m skater Casey Dawson, who will also join Mantia, Emery Lehman and Ethan Cepuran in team pursuit. The U.S. recently set the world record in that event.

Karen Rosen, who has covered every summer and winter Olympics since 1992, is a special contributor to

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Ilia Malinin eyed new heights at figure skating worlds, but a jump to gold requires more


At 18 years old, Ilia Malinin already has reached immortality in figure skating for technical achievement, being the first to land a quadruple Axel jump in competition.

The self-styled “Quadg0d” already has shown the chutzpah (or hubris?) to go for the most technically difficult free skate program ever attempted at the world championships, including that quad Axel, the hardest jump anyone has tried.

It helped bring U.S. champion Malinin the world bronze medal Saturday in Saitama, Japan, where he made more history as the first to land the quad Axel at worlds.

But it already had him thinking that the way to reach the tops of both the worlds and Olympus might be to acknowledge his mortal limits.

Yes, if Malinin (288.44 points) had cleanly landed all six quads he did instead of going clean on just three of the six, it would have closed or even overcome the gap between him and repeat champion Shoma Uno of Japan (301.14) and surprise silver medalist Cha Jun-Hwan (296.03), the first South Korean man to win a world medal.

That’s a big if, as no one ever has done six clean quads in a free skate.

And the energy needed for those quads, physical and mental, hurts Malinin’s chances of closing another big gap with the world leaders: the difference in their “artistic” marks, known as component scores.

Malinin’s technical scores led the field in both the short program and free skate. But his component scores were lower than at last year’s worlds, when he finished ninth, and they ranked 10th in the short program and 11th in the free this time. Uno had an 18.44-point overall advantage over Malinin in PCS, Cha a 13.47 advantage.

FIGURE SKATING WORLDS: Chock, Bates, and a long road to gold | Results

As usual in figure skating, some of the PCS difference owes to the idea of paying your dues. After all, at his first world championships, eventual Olympic champion Nathan Chen had PCS scores only slightly better than Malinin’s, and Chen’s numbers improved substantially by the next season.

But credit Malinin for quickly grasping the reality that his current skating has a lot of rough edges on the performance side.

“I’ve noticed that it’s really hard to go for a lot of risks,” he said in answer to a press conference question about what he had learned from this competition. “Sometimes going for the risks you get really good rewards, but I think that maybe sometimes it’s OK to lower the risks and go for a lot cleaner skate. I think it will be beneficial next season to lower the standards a bit.”

So could it be “been-there, done-that” with the quad Axel? (and the talk of quints and quad-quad combinations?)

Saturday’s was his fourth clean quad Axel in seven attempts this season, but it got substantially the lowest grade of execution (0.36) of the four with positive marks. It was his opening jump in the four-minute free, and, after a stopped-in-your tracks landing, his next two quads, flip and Lutz, were both badly flawed.

And there were still some three minutes to go.

Malinin did not directly answer about letting the quad Axel go now that he has definitively proved he can do it. What he did say could be seen as hinting at it.

“With the whole components factor … it’s probably because you know, after doing a lot of these jumps, (which) are difficult jumps, it’s really hard to try to perform for the audience,” he said.

“Even though some people might enjoy jumping, and it’s one of the things I enjoy, but I also like to perform to the audience. So I think next season, I would really want to focus on this performing side.”

Chen had told me essentially the same thing for a 2017 Ice Network story (reposted last year by about his several years of ballet training. He regretted not being able to show that training more because of the program-consuming athletic demands that come with being an elite figure skater.

“When I watch my skating when I was younger, I definitely see all this balletic movement and this artistry come through,” Chen said then. “When I watch my artistry now, it’s like, ‘Yes, it’s still there,’ but at the same time, I’m so focused on the jumps, it takes away from it.”

The artistry can still be developed and displayed, as Chen showed and as prolific and proficient quad jumpers like Uno and the now retired two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan have proved.

For another perspective on how hard it is to combine both, look at the difficulty it posed for the consummate performer, Jason Brown, who had the highest PCS scores while finishing a strong fifth (280.84).

Since Brown dropped his Sisyphean attempts to do a clean quad after 26 tries (20 in a free skate), the last at the 2022 U.S. Championships, he has received the two highest international free skate scores of his career, at the 2022 Olympics and this world meet.

It meant Brown’s coming to terms with his limitations and the fact that in the sport’s current iteration, his lack of quads gives him little chance of winning a global championship medal. What he did instead was give people the chance to see the beauty of his blade work, his striking movement, his expressiveness.

He has, at 28, become an audience favorite more than ever. And the judges Saturday gave Brown six maximum PCS scores (10.0.)

“I’m so happy about today’s performance,” Brown told media in the mixed zone. “I did my best to go out there and skate my skate. And that’s what I did.”

The quadg0d is realizing that he, too, must accept limitations if he wants to achieve his goals. Ilia Malinin can’t simply jump his way onto the highest steps of the most prized podiums.

Philip Hersh, who has covered figure skating at the last 12 Winter Olympics, is a special contributor to

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Shoma Uno repeats as world figure skating champion; Ilia Malinin tries 6 quads for bronze


Japan’s Shoma Uno repeated as world figure skating champion, performing the total package of jumps and artistry immediately after 18-year-old American Ilia Malinin attempted a record-tying six quadruple jumps in his free skate to earn the bronze medal.

Uno, 25 and the leader after Thursday’s short program, prevailed with five quad attempts (one under-rotated) in Saturday’s free skate.

He finished, fell backward and lay on home ice in Saitama, soaking in a standing ovation amid a sea of Japanese flags. Japan won three of the four gold medals this week, and Uno capped it off with guts coming off a reported ankle injury.

He is the face of Japanese men’s skating after two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu retired in July and Olympic silver medalist Yuma Kagiyama missed most of this season with leg and ankle injuries.

“There were many shaky jumps today, but I’m happy I was able to get a good result despite not being in a good condition these past two weeks,” Uno said, according to the International Skating Union (ISU). “I know I caused a lot of concerns to everyone around me, but I was able to pay them back and show my gratitude with my performance today.”

Silver medalist Cha Jun-Hwan became the first South Korean man to win a world championships medal. Cha, a 21-year-old who was fifth at the Olympics, had to change out broken skate boots before traveling to Japan, one year after withdrawing from worlds after a 17th-place short program, citing a broken skate boot.


Malinin, ninth in his senior worlds debut last year, planned the most difficult program of jumps in figure skating history — six quads, including a quad Axel. Malinin is the only person to land a quad Axel in competition and did so again Saturday. He still finished 12.7 points behind Uno and 7.59 behind Cha.

Malinin had the top technical score (jumps, spins, step sequences) in both programs, despite an under-rotation and two other negatively graded jumps among his seven jumping passes in the free skate.

His nemesis was the artistic score, placing 10th and 11th in that category in the two programs (18.44 points behind Uno). Unsurprising for the only teen in the top 13, who is still working on that facet of his skating, much like a young Nathan Chen several years ago.

“After doing a lot of these jumps — hard, difficult jumps — it’s really hard to try to perform for the audience,” said Malinin, who entered worlds ranked second in the field by best score this season behind Uno.

Chen, who is unlikely to compete again after winning last year’s Olympics, remains the lone skater to land six fully rotated quads in one program (though not all clean). Malinin became the youngest U.S. male singles skater to win a world medal since Scott Allen in 1965. He was proud of his performance, upping the ante after previously trying five quads in free skates this season, but afterward weighed whether the risk was worth it.

“Sometimes going for the risk, you get really good rewards, but I think that maybe sometimes it’s OK to lower the risks and try not to take as much risk and go for a lot cleaner skate,” he said. “I think that’ll be beneficial to do next season is to lower the standards a bit.”

Malinin was followed by Frenchman Kévin Aymoz, who before the pandemic was the world’s third-ranked skater behind Chen and Yuzuru Hanyu, then placed ninth, 11th and 12th at the last three global championships.

Jason Brown, a two-time U.S. Olympian, was fifth in his first international competition since last year’s Olympics. He was the lone man in the top 15 to not attempt a quad, a testament to his incredible artistic skills for which he received the most points between the two programs.

“I didn’t think at the beginning of the year that I even would be competing this year, so I’m really touched to be here,” the 28-year-old said, according to the ISU. “I still want to keep going [competing] a little longer, but we’ll see. I won’t do promises.”

Earlier Saturday, Madison Chock and Evan Bates became the oldest couple to win an ice dance world title and the second set of Americans to do so. More on that here.

World championships highlights air Saturday from 8-10 p.m. ET on NBC, and the NBC Sports app.

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