The day after the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games ended, long track speedskater Brittany Bowe noticed the silence and realized a crazy ride was really over.
Up to that point, Bowe’s life had been so loud and intense. Preparing for the Winter Games, becoming a part of the U.S. Olympic Long Track Speedskating Team, dealing with the high expectations from the media and herself to medal, and the accompanying public attention consumed her life.
And then results of the Sochi Games were a crushing disappointment, both for Bowe personally and the entire US Speedskating team.
|Brittany Bowe celebrates on the podium after winning the gold medal in the women's 1,500-meter race during the ISU World Single Distances Speed Skating Championships held at Thialf Ice Arena on Feb. 15, 2015 in Heerenveen, Netherlands.
“I noticed how things had changed right after Sochi was done: Nobody cared about speedskating anymore, my vision of what I was going to accomplish didn’t happen and I need to really take some time and think about why I was doing what I was doing,” Bowe said. “And that’s what I think made the difference for me now, I took a couple of months off, went home to Florida and was off the ice, and really did some soul-searching.
“I found the answers, I made peace, and then the motivation came back again.”
Bowe’s evaluation of speedskating and life has indeed produced significant results during the 2014-15 season, as she has already surpassed her personal goals.
She has dominated in her premier distances, the 1,000 and 1,500 meters, and added the 500 as an important event.
After winning eight world cup medals this season, Bowe won gold in the 1,000 and 1,500, and silver in the 500 at the World Single Distances Championships in mid-February in Heerenveen, Netherlands. Then in early March she won all four races to win the world sprint championship in Astana, Kazakhstan. The single distance win in the 1,000 — which set a new track record and signified her first world championship — and the silver in the 500 really excited Bowe.
“It’s something I hoped for, dreamed about, and it just all came together at one time,” Bowe, 27, said. “I wanted to win the 1,000 since the start of the year. I felt so good going into the Single Distance, I wanted to really put it together. That’s done so much for my confidence, it shows me I am on the right track.”
Bowe, a former point guard at Florida Atlantic University, grew up competitively rollerskating. She made the switch to the ice in 2010, finding success, but also the tough lessons of learning the rigors, physical demands and subtle strategy of speedskating.
She credits the hard work with personal coach Matt Kooreman, also one of the head coaches of the U.S. long track team, as setting up her career-best season.
Kooreman really started working with Bowe after Sochi, and she admits she needed to learn to fully trust in the changes he wanted. Once she bought in, the duo has not looked back.
“My main thing, coming in as a new coach, was to make sure we identified what worked well leading up to Sochi, keep those things, and then find some of the areas that needed to change in order to optimize performance at exactly the right time,” Kooreman said via email. “The other big thing, in my mind, was to re-establish our routines and understand that we were in full control of the outcome of our performances.”
Kooreman sees Bowe’s championship performances in Heerenveen as a powerful statement of her potential.
“Brittany really is a relative new comer to the sport, and its scary, at least it should be to her competitors, that she has so much room to improve,” Kooreman said. “One of the main factors for her improvement has been in her technical efficiency on the ice. She made a nice jump in this area, but I believe this will be one of the keys to her continued improvement.”
Bowe’s focus is aimed at being her best for the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games.
After that, she harbors a dream of returning to play basketball to end her athletic career. She still loves watching college hoops, strategically looking at the game as the daughter of a long-time high school coach and also a former player.
If things could work out, playing a season or two professionally would be the perfect life for Bowe.
“I still think I would be able to do it, I just would love the chance to go back to basketball for a bit,” Bowe said. “But right now, speedskating is 100 percent my life. I am having so much fun right now, and I think I can get a lot better the next few years. That’s my goal.”
Joanne C. Gerstner has covered two Olympic Games and writes regularly for the New York Times and other outlets about sports. She has written for TeamUSA.org since 2009 as a freelance contributor on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.