Brittany Bowe competes in the 1,500-meter during the ISU World Single Distances Speed Skating Championships on Feb. 15, 2015 in Heerenveen, Netherlands.
Brittany Bowe hopes to begin the 2015-16 long-track speedskating season by picking right up where she left off last spring, and there would certainly be worse places to start.
The 27-year-old from Ocala, Florida, turned in some of the most impressive performances of the past season, earning world titles in the 1,000- and 1,500-meter races at the ISU World Single Distances Speed Skating Championships and adding a silver medal in the 500. That was in mid-February. Two weeks later she won the world sprint title, and she finished the season with 14 world cup medals and the 1,000-meter overall title.
It was redemption of the sweetest kind following what Bowe called a heart-wrenching 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. She’d set the world record in the 1,000-meter and medaled six times in eight world cup races prior to the Games, but once there she finished eighth in the 1,000-meter, 13th in the 500-meter and 14th in the 1,500-meter.
“After the Olympics, I went home and took a moment to gather my thoughts, decompressed and then got back to work and was really determined to make a statement and make my place felt on the world cup circuit,” she said. “This past year, winning three world titles was far beyond what I had my sights on. That was really encouraging. It helped build my confidence to continue the workload through the summer. Hopefully I can build on what I finished last year with going into this season.”
After the season, Bowe received the Oscar Mathisen Award for her 1,000-meter race during the world championships in the Netherlands. She won the event by 0.6 seconds and became the first skater to finish the distance below 1 minute 14 seconds on a European track, clocking in at 1:13.90. She is just the fifth American skater to win the award, named for Norwegian speedskater Mathisen, and only the second American woman. Bonnie Blair is the other.
Bowe was also awarded the 2015 Eric Heiden Athlete of the Year Award by US Speedskating.
After a busy and highly successful season, Bowe returned home to relax with family in Florida, where her world-class speedskating career began nearly 20 years ago not on ice but on wheels.
Her old inline skates were lying around, so she decided to swing by the rink and say hello to her former coach and some of the local kids.
That led to joining in on a practice, and that led to another practice, and another. Before she knew it, Bowe had jumped back into competition and was enjoying the opportunity to race on wheels against other skaters instead of a clock.
At the U.S. outdoor championships this summer Bowe collected eight gold medals and one silver medal while setting three new national records for track and road. At the European Cup in Austria she won gold in the 500- and 1,000-meter races.
“It’s a whole different ballgame,” she said of inline versus ice. “You’re in a pack, you’re racing, you’re not worried about the clock. It’s fun to have a race strategy depending on who’s in the pack with you, so you are a little more tactical, I guess you could say. As refreshing as it was, it was very competitive, so I continued to have that edge throughout the summer.”
Bowe attributes much of her success on ice last season to Matt Kooreman, who joined US Speedskating as the long track national team coach following Sochi. Kooreman knew Bowe from when she first moved to Salt Lake City and transitioned to ice and he was leading the FAST program at the Utah Olympic Oval. Even then you knew she was a fierce competitor, Kooreman said, having the opportunity to coach her once again was an appealing part of the position as national team coach.
Kooreman believes Bowe’s summer on inline skates will help her this coming season, beginning with the US Speedskating Long Track Fall World Cup Qualifier this weekend in Salt Lake City.
“I think it was a nice mental break,” he said. “It seemed she really tapped into the joy of skating and competing and had the opportunity to go out and have fun with what she was doing, and it also helped keep her in really good shape. Inline is obviously really similar to ice skating, so she got some good specific training and also had a lot of fun. She came back from being overseas fired up, happy and ready to continue where we left off.”