GANGNEUNG, South Korea -- Brittany Bowe wants nothing more than an Olympic medal.
And she came painstakingly close to winning one Wednesday night at the Gangneung Oval, finishing fourth in the 1,000-meter.
While the long track speedskater finished just off the podium in what is often considered the most crushing placement for an athlete, it was the best individual finish by a U.S. woman since 2002, when Team USA earned three medals on home ice in Salt Lake City.
But Bowe doesn’t see it that way, the four-time world champion expecting better of herself.
“Obviously very disappointed in this moment, just falling short of the podium,” she said after the race. “My best finish yet at the Olympics but that doesn’t matter if it’s not top three.”
She knows she is capable of more, having earned three world championship medals at 1,000 meters – gold in 2015, and bronzes in 2013 and 2016.
Yet the 29-year-old is also mindful she is still on the comeback trail. Bowe suffered a concussion in July 2016 after colliding with a teammate, and has since faced numerous side effects, including vestibular dysfunction, post-concussion syndrome and postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome. She missed all but one world cup in the 2016-17 season, taking bronze in the 1,000 at that event, as well as the 2017 world championships.
Competing through most of the 2017-18 world cup circuit, Bowe has yet to return to the world cup podium, a place she had become so accustomed to with 45 world cup medals on her resume and the title of grand world cup champion in 2016.
But now she knows the speed is there and that she’s getting faster with each race.
In her first race of the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018, Bowe finished fifth in the 1,500 Monday night. She was 0.28 seconds from the podium in that race.
On Wednesday, she improved one spot.
Jorien ter Mors of the Netherlands won gold in a time of 1:13.56, followed by Japan’s Nao Kodaira and Miho Takagi, who won silver and bronze in 1:31.82 and 1:13.98, respectively. Bowe finished in 1:14.36.
Bowe noted she “had a great start, had a great first lap, just didn’t have the legs there at the end.”
Racing in the 12th of 16 pairs, she was cautiously optimistic her time would hold up.
“I think a 1:13.9 won it here last year so I had a feeling it’d take a 1:13 to make it onto the podium at the Olympics,” Bowe said. “So I thought it would probably fall short but I left it all out there on the ice and that’s all I could do.”
The winning time from last year Bowe referred to belongs to Heather Bergsma, her U.S. teammate who won the 2017 1,000-meter world title in 1:13.94 at the same oval.
Bergsma finished eighth at the 2018 Olympics, matching her placement in the 1,500 earlier this week. The third U.S. woman competing, Jerica Tandiman, was 28th in her Olympic debut.
“It’s always difficult going last, there was fast times before me, but mentally I was prepared for that,” Bergsma said. “So I went out and I went for it.”
Both women will also race the 500-meter on Sunday. While Bergsma noted the 1,000 was her best shot at a medal, both women have earned world championship medals in the 500, Bergsma claiming the 2015 title and Bowe earning two silvers in 2015 and 2016.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Bowe said of the 500. “Got another chance on Sunday to skate the best one lap that I’ve ever skated and hopefully make a statement there.”