Trading High Tops For Speed Skates
|Brittany Bowe competes in the 500m race during the Essent ISU
Speed Skating World Cup at Thialf Stadium on March 8, 2013
in Heerenveen, Netherlands.
Until recently, Brittany Bowe’s Olympic dreams were on a basketball court rather than a speedskating oval.
The 25-year-old American started out as a top-notch point guard and played at Trinity Catholic High School in Ocala, Fla. After that, she played hoops at Florida Atlantic University, where she was a captain for three years.
Bowe eventually put herself eighth on the Division I school’s all-time scoring list (1,075 points). She is one of nine players at the school to eclipse the 1,000-point mark.
Her post-graduation plans were to look into moving up to the professional level.
That is, until she watched the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games.
“All of my focus was on basketball with the hopes of signing a professional contract overseas,” Bowe wrote via email from Sochi, Russia, where she will compete in this week’s ISU World Single Distances Championships. “But when the Vancouver Olympics aired, and I saw some of my friends, teammates and competitors from the inline world dominating the ice scene, it lit a fire inside of me and I had a change of heart with what my future plans would hold.”
Some of those friends she watched compete were Chad Hedrick and Heather Richardson, whom Bowe had known from the inline skating circuit growing up. Hedrick retired after Vancouver as a five-time medalist, but Richardson, who won a gold medal at the 2013 World Sprint Speed Skating Championships, remains on the team.
From that moment in February 2010, Bowe’s drive switched from the hardcourt to the ice. Thanks to her inline skating background, the transition was fairly smooth.
“When I was 8 years old, I was at the local skating rink in Ocala, Fla., for a friend’s birthday party and the inline skating team had practice following the party,” Bowe said when asked about her roots in inline skating. “The coach saw me skating and approached me asking if I wanted to come out to a practice and give inline speed skating a try. So I did.”
Bowe started skating in 1996, and from 2002 to 2008 she made the world championships every year (winning 32 medals). After the 2008 World Championships, however, she gave up inline skating to focus on basketball.
|Brittany Bowe (L), Heather Richardson (C) and Karolina Erbanova of Czech Republic
pose on the podium at the Essent ISU Speed Skating World Cup at Thialf Stadium on
March 9, 2013 in Heerenveen, Netherlands. Richardson finished the season ranked first
in the 1000m, with Bowe second and Erbanova third.
After graduating from Florida Atlantic in May 2010, she moved to Salt Lake City to start training in her new sport. In November 2011, she competed at her first speedskating World Cup meet.
This season, Bowe has earned one gold and two bronze World Cup medals. With the 2014 Olympic speedskating competition happening in the same building in which she’s competing this week, Bowe is excited to race and get a sense of the venue.
“I’m really excited to see and feel the energy within the building,” said Bowe, who will compete in the 500-, 1000- and 1500-meter events. “I’ve heard that the Olympics has a certain energy that is unmatched in any other kind of competition, so I hope that I get a taste of that excitement to fuel my determination and focus for next season.”
If Bowe were simply an inline skater and nothing else, moving to speedskating would not be anything out of the ordinary. Many skaters on the U.S. short and long track teams got their start in the sport, which is similar — but also very different — to its cousin on the ice.
Bowe’s diverse athletic background, however, has molded her into a well-rounded athlete.
“I played basketball, baseball, soccer and volleyball,” Bowe said. “Aside from skating and basketball, I would have to say my favorite sport was soccer. I was on a travel team until I got to high school. In Florida, at the high school level, soccer and basketball are played in the same season so I had to choose one.”
These days while she’s competing in speedskating venues, Bowe leaves her basketball — and high-top shoes — back home in Utah. During the season, she said, she stays focused on her current sport.
Still, basketball is in her blood. It always will be.
“Playing basketball in the Olympics would be a dream come true but let’s concentrate on speedskating first,” she said.