KEARNS, Utah – Long track speedskater Brittany Bowe doesn’t fear competition from U.S. teammate Heather (Richardson) Bergsma in the least.
She relishes it.
“It’s pretty easy to tell that we bring out the best in each other,” Bowe said. “We’re fighters and we’re competitors, and when we’re racing together something special happens almost every single time.”
The two teammates and 2014 U.S. Olympians battled all weekend at the Utah Olympic Oval at the ISU World Cup, and they ended up swapping world records that they set last weekend at the season-opening world cup event in Calgary.
First Bergsma broke Bowe’s world record in the 1,500-meter on Saturday with a time of 1 minute, 50.85 seconds, just ahead of Bowe’s 1:51.31.
Then on Sunday, Bowe held off Bergsma and China’s Hong Zhang for gold in the 1,000-meter, with her time of 1:12.18 breaking Bergsma’s week-old world record.
After the duo broke three world records last weekend — Bowe broke the 1,500 and 1,000 records, and then Bergsma lowered the 1,000 — their feats this weekend marked the first time a country set multiple women's world records on back-to-back weekends since Germany in 2001.
“It’s pretty special how many world records have been broken the last two weekends,” Bowe said. “It’s always fun to skate at altitude, and we had fast times throughout. The goal is the world championships in February, so it’s really important after these two weekends to get back, get recovered and start another training block.”
In a sport measured in hundredths of seconds, Bowe said she spends a lot of time watching video of her races to shave as much time as possible off of her finishes.
“Last night I watched my 1,000 world singles from last year more times than I can count,” Bowe said. “I watched my 1,000 meters from Calgary more times than I can count. I was just focusing on executing a perfect race, and that’s what I did.
“When you go back and watch races, it can be one step, so it’s pretty evident where you can gain speed or lose speed. When you’re in the heat of the moment it might not always be very clear, but when you go back and watch a race, whether it’s a misstep or a bad entry or bad exit, it’s very apparent as where you lost the speed.”
Bowe hit the podium four times in total over the weekend, also finishing second in the 500-meter on Friday and second in the 500-meter on Saturday.
On the men’s side, Mitch Whitmore earned his first world cup medal while setting an American record in the 500-meter on Friday. He finished second at 34.19, just behind Russia’s Pavel Kulizhnikov (33.98).
“It was awesome,” said U.S. teammate and roommate Joey Mantia. “That guy is so talented. Two years ago at the world cup here in Salt Lake City, Mitch set the national record and got fourth. He was in an early pair and had to sit and watch. He thought he was going to get a podium and he just missed it. So I was really happy to see him get on the podium finally.”
Mantia picked up a silver medal of his own on Friday, finishing second in the 1,500-meter with a time of 1:42.45. Kjeld Nuis of the Netherlands won the event in 1:42.14. Mantia has qualified for the world championships in the 1,000 and 1,500. He now sits in second place in the 1,500-meter standings. He also won the B Division mass start to earn the right to run in the next A Division race and hopes to qualify for worlds in that event as well.
“For me, the goal right now in the first two world cups was to qualify for world singles, which I did by time in Calgary (last week),” Mantia said. “So coming into this weekend I wanted some good relaxed skating and to execute some things we’ve been working on for the past several months. It was really about just progress and trying to get some personal bests, which I did.”
Mantia said a simplified approach has helped him in training for his races.
“That’s the ultimate thing with skating or any technical sport like golf is to do the right thing, to work on (it) at the right time and not focus on too many things,” he said. “I’m lucky to have a really good support system with a nice pool of coaches and people helping with those kind of things. I’m really trying to keep everything basic. If you go out there and try to focus on 10 different things, obviously it’s just going to fall apart. If you simplify and think one or two things and bring that piece into the race, you usually get pretty good results.”
Two-time Olympic champion Shani Davis continued his training to try and get back to the world championships with a third-place finish in the 1,500-meter on Friday and a fourth in the 1,000 on Saturday. Davis is fourth in both the 1,000- and 1,500-meter world cup standings after the Salt Lake competition.