Amy Donaldson: Incident at World Sprint Championships proved Brittany Bowe isn't just another speedy skater
KEARNS — Frustration was evident on Brittany Bowe's face as she skated toward her coach after a miscue with another skater cost her time and a likely podium finish at the World Sprint Championships on Sunday afternoon.
"I had a decent opener and my first lap felt really good," said Bowe, a former in-line skater who took up long track speedskating last year. "It was the fastest lap I've had in competition thus far and going into that out lane, after the finish line, I was still picking up speed and carrying my speed really well." That's when the only other athlete on the ice, Karolina Erbanova, crossed in front of her, essentially cutting her off as she moved from the inside to the outside lane.
"I kind of had to pull back and stand up a little bit," she said. "But that's racing. ... It's really unfortunate, and I’m upset about it. But at the same time, I've got to be happy for my teammate because she just won the overall World Sprint Championship."
Bowe was disappointed with her 10th-place finish in the 1,000 meters because she was on pace to match or beat her personal record of 1:13.68 — set yesterday when she earned a silver medal in the first 1,000-meter race of the World Sprint Championships at the Utah Olympic Park.
"It happens," said U.S. long track head coach Ryan Shimabukuro. "It wasn't the way she wanted to finish the weekend; we wanted to get her on the podium this weekend."
In fact, after finishing second in the 1,000-meter race Saturday, Bowe's goal of finishing in the top 10 overall changed to finishing in the top six.
So finishing eighth overall was suddenly a disappointment.
What mitigated the sting of Sunday's frustration?
Watching her friend and teammate, Heather Richardson, win the World Sprint Championship. This is the same teammate Bowe beat in the 1,000 meters Saturday.
"If anyone else was going to win it, I’m glad it was Heather," said Bowe with a smile that emphasized her sincerity.
This weekend proved that Bowe, a 24-year-old Florida native, is more than just another speedy skater. She showed she is resilient, grateful and the best kind of teammate.
Speedskating doesn't seem like much of a team sport, but both Bowe and Richardson said having great teammates, even in an individual sport, can make you better than you ever imagined on your own. Their coach said it is what makes the current long track team so special.
"It's awesome," he said of the chemistry between the two fastest U.S. female skaters. "They're very good friends, and they push each other daily in training. But it's not just them. We have a really good sprint team. ... It's a culture and an atmosphere they're able to thrive in. I'm very proud of our team — not just Brittany and Heather."
Both women said they would love the Olympic battle to come down to the two of them. "As much as people say it's individual," Richardson said, "we train together all the time."
Adds Bowe: "That would be nice. If anybody is to battle, it would be nice to have it be two Americans."
Bowe wasn't just a great teammate Sunday. She also showed why it's important for an athlete to be resilient.
No matter how prepared an athlete may be, some aspects of competition can't be controlled.
Richardson said she expected Bowe to bounce back because she was still one of the world's fastest women.
"That was really sad," said Richardson of the foul. "I'm sure she's upset, but I hope she stays mentally strong because yesterday she really had a breakthrough performance, and I think she could keep that up."
Seeing the silver lining was difficult to do so soon after the storm, but Bowe acknowledged it was there.
"I do feel like the momentum is going in the right direction," she said. "I do feel obviously like I would have liked to see where I would have finished in this 1,000 if we didn't have that little mix-up. But I couldn't have asked for anything more this weekend. Now it's time to get back to training and get ready for the World Cups."
She believes training with "arguably the fastest female in the world" will only help her put this latest disappointment in the rearview mirror.
"You can't get a better deal than that," she said smiling.
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