Brittany Bowe competes in the Women's 500 meter during the 2022 U.S. Olympic Team Trials - Long Track Speedskating on Jan. 7, 2022 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Brittany Bowe and Jordan Stolz skated to their second wins in as many days while heavy favorite Erin Jackson fell shy of a guaranteed Olympic spot in her marquee event Friday at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials - Long Track Speedskating in Milwaukee.
Jackson, the world’s top-ranked skater at 500-meters this season and winner of four of the eight world cup races, caught her skate in the second straightaway and finished third, meaning she could potentially miss out on a trip to her second Olympic Games.
Instead Bowe, who is best known for racing longer distances, clocked in with the winning time of 37.81 seconds to secure the guaranteed spot in next month’s Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022. The Ocala, Florida, native will be joined there by Stolz, the 17-year-old hometown star who won the men’s 500-meter in 34.55 and will be making his Olympic debut in Beijing.
Bowe, already a two-time Olympian, and Stolz had previously clinched Olympic spots by winning their respective 1,000-meter races on Thursday.
Kimi Goetz raced in the final pair and finished just behind Bowe at 37.86 seconds, while Jackson took third in 38.24. Goetz previously qualified for Beijing after finishing second in the 1,000.
Austin Kleba took second behind Stolz in the men’s race, though he’ll have to wait to learn his Olympic fate.
“It was a solid 500 for me,” said Bowe, a 2018 Olympic bronze medalist in the team pursuit. “I got off the line pretty good and had a nice chase on the backstretch and just tried to be smooth for the last turn for me.”
In what would have been a sold-out crowd at the Pettit National Ice Center, the third day of an empty arena was anything but quiet as the small crowd of coaches, skaters and volunteers collectively cheered on the athletes.
Bowe was the first of the three favorites to race Friday, setting the standard. Jackson, racing next, got off to a strong start before catching her skate.
“I lost my footing at first,” Jackson said. “I was about to go down but saved it.”
Seeing her teammate and fellow Ocala native slip, the 33-year-old Bowe shouted encouragement across the rink. Jackson, 29, was able to stay on her feet and still finished with the second best time. However, the 27-year-old Goetz, racing in the final pair, then eclipsed Jackson to claim the second Olympic spot.
“Everything felt good,” said Jackson, who in 2018 became the first Black woman to make the U.S. Olympic long track speedskating team. “It was going as planned, and then on the backstretch, I’m not really sure what happened. I lost my foot a bit. Almost went down but saved it. Just hit a bad edge.”
Jackson requested the opportunity to skate again but was denied.
“It’s really disappointing,” she said. “I’m not giving up hope yet. Just waiting to see what shakes out.”
Though Jackson missed out on a guaranteed Olympic spot, she could still earn a spot in Beijing if either Bowe or Goetz withdraws, or if another country is unable to fill their 500-meter quota and it’s reassigned to the U.S. Bowe, who like Jackson got her start as an inline skater in Ocala, said she hoped Jackson would get to Beijing.
“We all know that Erin’s been performing at a really high level all year,” Bowe said. “She’s the world cup leader, so that goes without saying she’s currently the best in the world.”
Goetz, a former short track skater who switched to long track after a concussion kept her out of the 2018 Olympic trials, continued her strong week in Milwaukee with another runner-up finish. Bowe and Goetz are again favored in Saturday’s 1,500-meter race.
Stolz continued to be the story on the men’s side, charging to an easy victory in the 500, in the process setting his second track record in as many nights while competing on his home oval.
The unassuming teenager from Kewaskum, Wisconsin, who is also the U.S. record holder in the 500, credited his breakout season on his technique and getting physically stronger over the summer. Stolz said he realized a while ago that he had a chance at the 2022 Olympics.
“I always planned on it,” he said. “Probably two years ago, I could see it was realistic enough, especially with my progress keeps improving, and it did.”
Kleba, 22, clocked in at 35.17, second only to Stolz. Although the Campton Hills, Illinois, native will have to wait to learn if he’s headed to Beijing, it didn’t dampen his enthusiasm.
“It’s surreal,” he said. “I looked up at the board, and I knew what time I had to get, and definitely, I was nervous in the beginning, but once I saw it — it was a wave of relief for sure.
“I feel like I’m in a dream right now.”