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

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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 NBCSports.com. “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 NBCSports.com.

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Valencia Marathon produces historic times in men’s, women’s races

2022 Valencia Marathon
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Kenyan Kelvin Kiptum and Ethiopian Amane Beriso won the Valencia Marathon and became the third-fastest man and woman in history, respectively.

Kiptum, a 23-year-old in his marathon debut, won the men’s race in 2 hours, 1 minute, 53 seconds. The only men to ever run faster over 26.2 miles are legends: Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge (2:01:09 world record, plus a 2:01:39) and Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele (2:01:41).

Kipchoge made his marathon debut at age 28, and Bekele at 31.

Beriso, a 31-year-old whose personal best was 2:20:48 from January 2016, stunned the women’s field Sunday by running 2:14:58. The only women to have run faster: Kenyans Brigid Kosgei (2:14:04) and Ruth Chepngetich (2:14:18).

Ethiopian Letesenbet Gidey finished second in 2:16:49, the fastest-ever time for a woman in her marathon debut. Gidey is the world record holder at 5000m and 10,000m.

Valencia is arguably the top annual marathon outside of the six World Marathon Majors. The next major marathon is Tokyo on March 5.

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Aleksander Aamodt Kilde wins Beaver Creek downhill

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BEAVER CREEK, Colo. — Norway’s Aleksander Aamodt Kilde won his second straight World Cup downhill race to start the season, despite feeling under the weather.

Although dealing with an illness all week in training, Kilde powered through the challenging Birds of Prey course Saturday in a time of 1 minute, 42.09 seconds. It was enough to hold off Marco Odermatt of Switzerland by 0.06 seconds. James Crawford of Canada was third to earn his second career World Cup podium finish.

Kilde also won the opening downhill last weekend in Lake Louise, Alberta.

“It’s been a tough week,” Kilde said after the race. “I caught the flu in Lake Louise after a very, very nice weekend. It really hit me hard. Then I got a couple of days to rest and take it easy. … I felt OK. Still feeling it a little bit in my system.”

The Beaver Creek crew members had the course in solid shape a day after a downhill race was canceled due to high wind and snowfall.

ALPINE SKIING: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Kilde reached speeds around 75 mph in picking up his eighth World Cup downhill victory. That tied him with Kjetil Jansrud for the third-most downhill wins in the World Cup discipline among Norwegian men. The total trails only Aksel Lund Svindal (14) and Lasse Kjus (10).

“I found a really, really good set-up with my equipment and also with my skiing,” Kilde explained. “I believe in myself. I trust in myself. I have a good game plan. When I stand on the start, I don’t dwell on anything. I know that this plan is what I do and when I do that it’s going to be fast.”

Odermatt has been on the podium in all four World Cup races this season as he tries to defend his overall World Cup title. The 25-year-old finished third in the opening downhill of the season last weekend. He’s also won a giant slalom race and a super-G.

Ryan Cochran-Siegle wound up in seventh place for the top American finish. He was ninth in the downhill in Lake Louise.

“It’s been solid,” Cochran-Siegle said of his strides in the discipline. “A couple of little things here and there that pushed me off that top three. You have to ski with a lot of intensity and ski without abandon, in a sense. Today was a good step.”

Switzerland’s Beat Feuz, who won the Olympic downhill gold medal at the Beijing Games last February, tied for ninth.

The Beaver Creek stop on the circuit comes to a close Sunday with a super-G race. Odermatt will be the favorite after holding off Kilde in the opening super-G last weekend.

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