Speedskater Brittany Bowe (R) poses with her family on April 12, 2020.
If you haven’t checked out two-time Olympian and 13-time world medalist Brittany Bowe’s Instagram in a while, do yourself a favor and go there now.
What you won’t see much of: speedskating.
A sampling of what you will see posted from the past several weeks: dancing, baton twirling, Bowe’s mom, Bowe’s sister, tutus, bunny ears, bunny hopping, more dancing and a whole thing with legs in sweatshirts.
Trust us, you’re going to laugh.
Bowe, her sister Brooke and her mom Debbie are riding out the coronavirus outbreak together in Debbie’s townhouse in Ocala, Florida, and to the delight of neighbors and social media followers worldwide they’re all in on making TikTok videos.
While Bowe said all the credit goes to her sister, who’s a professional dancer and choreographer, for getting them started, it didn’t take much convincing to get her and her mom on board.
“We all love to have fun and have a good time and be goofy,” she said. “It’s fun for my sister to teach us and just to laugh and smile in a time that is so horrible and so unfamiliar. We’re just trying to keep the positivity going within the walls of our house. It’s a good way to enjoy each other and have fun, and it’s nice to see people loving them and watching them and commenting that they look forward to them and how nice it is to laugh in this scary and sad time.”
Bowe had just finished the long track speedskating season and headed to Morocco for a well-deserved vacation with her girlfriend when the virus began to spread in the U.S. in March. Early into the trip they learned the borders into the Netherlands were closing and had to cut it short. After a few days back in the Netherlands, the U.S. advised all Americans to return home immediately, so Bowe changed her return trip, originally scheduled to take her home to Salt Lake City, to instead bring her back to her home state of Florida in order to be with her mom and sister.
One day they were sitting outside, Bowe said, and her sister was on TikTok. Some of the students at the studio where Brooke teaches were dancing to the popular TikTok song “Savage.”
Brooke convinced Brittany to learn some choreography and post a video of her own.
“I think I had more views on that than any skating video I posted so I was like, ‘I’ve been posting the wrong stuff all year,’” she said.
Everything took off from there. Now Brooke scrolls through TikTok to find inspiration for their next project, Bowe said, then they spend two or three hours rehearsing, dig through boxes of Brooke’s old dance costumes to find their perfect looks and then start recording.
“Who knows what the neighbors think of us now,” Bowe said.
Debbie’s favorite so far is one where everyone is squeezed into her tiny kitchen with Brittany kneeling on the table “playing” a broom and dustpan like a trombone, Debbie twirling a baton and Brooke slamming the oven door in time with the beat.
“They said, ‘Just stand at the sink and pretend you’re washing your hands for eight counts then start twirling, but don’t hit us,’” said Debbie, who was actually a baton twirler and cheerleader when she was younger. “Then the poor deaf cat was circling the table so I needed to watch out for her. And they said, ‘You can’t drop the baton.’ Originally Brittany was slamming the oven door but she wasn’t doing the beat correctly so Brooke said, ‘You get on the table.’ That was the most fun, but they’ve all been crazy fun.”
Bowe’s favorites have been the “Pamela Pupkin” workout videos, including the Easter-themed one posted last weekend. Without giving too much away, that’s where the bunny hopping comes in, and there’s also some chicken clucking and a cameo from two of the neighbors.
“When you see the car behind us, that’s them,” Debbie Bowe said. “They’re excited they’re in the video.”
This is about the time of year when Brittany Bowe would start getting back in the weight room and doing some aerobic work in preparation for the coming long track speedskating season, so being away from everything hasn’t seemed too weird just yet. Her roommate sent her inline skates, and she has access to weights and can work out in the Florida sunshine.
But she is already thinking toward competing again following a season that was both phenomenal and disappointing. Bowe was unbeaten in the 1,000-meter for half the season, winning seven world cup races in a row over the course of a year to break the U.S. women’s streak record held by Bonnie Blair and Heather Bergsma. She also won the overall world cup title at the distance for the fourth time. However, she was eighth on home ice at the ISU World Single Distances Championships, where she was the defending champion.
“Our goal each year is to perform at the world championships, and my goal was to defend my world title in the 1,000,” she said. “For whatever reason I had a tough month in January and February didn’t go as I planned. It didn’t go how anyone planned. When you’re looking for that one moment and you fall far short of that expectation it’s heartbreaking. But as I take a step back I don’t want to let that overshadow the year because I did have a successful year and I’m really happy with winning that overall 1,000-meter world cup title. Falling short of your goals definitely keeps the fires burning and it almost takes a setback to make you work a little harder. That’s definitely going to be on my mind this summer and as we start the season, hopefully.
The team is scheduled to be in Salt Lake City beginning May 11, Bowe said, but she hasn’t bought her plane ticket yet. In the meantime, count on some more videos coming to her Instagram.
“The girls said I was putting pressure on them because my friends are like, ‘When’s the next TikTok? We want another TikTok,’” said Debbie, who fully admits to not thinking of TikTok as anything but the sound a clock makes before her daughters temporarily moved back home. “It’s been a joy to be able to have this fun with them, especially now that they’re young adults. This was never planned, but for the three of us to be in a townhome together doing this, it’s just been amazing. It’s been fun.”