Bowe returns 1,000-meter world record to U.S. soilAmerican crosses finish line in 1:12.58, breaks Canadian Nesbitt's mark
Brittany Bowe let herself dream about setting a world record in speed skating almost everywhere but on the ice.
But it was on the ice of the Utah Olympic Oval, where she trains every day, that she made that dream a reality as she won the 1,000 meters in a world-record time of 1:12.58 on the final day of World Cup competition in Kearns, Utah.
"Holding a record on home ice is very prestigious in my eyes," the 25-year-old Florida native said. "Did I think about it going into the race? Absolutely not. Just like I always say, I'm thinking about race tactics and focusing on my skating. And the time fell today, and I'm very pleased."
It was a special moment for her entire team, including the coaching staff and Oval personnel.
Head coach Ryan Shimabukuro said they never discuss breaking records, but it's sort of an unspoken desire of everyone on the team that they want the world's fastest times to be skated on U.S. soil.
"Obviously, when Chris Witty set the world record here in the '02 Games, that was huge: home crowd, Olympics, in the biggest race of her life," Shimabukuro said. "When we lost it in 2006, after Torino, well, it's just nice to be able to bring it back home on the ice where she set it. It's always special."
Shimabukuro said not only are world records rare, but they require more than just a great athletic effort.
"We don't talk about records," he said. "We don't focus on that. If it's there, we'll take it. … But you've got to have special conditions. We've had sprint competitions here the last three seasons, and we need a little luck from the weather, too. The girls were amazing today."
What made Sunday's record-setting performance even more memorable was the fact that silver medalist Heather Richardson's time of 1:12.61 was also faster than the original world record of 1:12.68 set by Canadian Christine Nesbitt.
For Bowe, Sunday's accomplishment was the culmination of years of hard work and sacrifice that began four years ago, when she moved from Florida to Utah to pursue her dream of being an Olympian.
The former college basketball player and inline skating star followed Richardson to the ice in hopes of earning a spot on the 2014 Olympic team.
The 25-year-old said breaking a world record is something she's dreamed about all her life. She set two world records as an inline skater: one in the 300 meters and one in the 500. Both of those records were set in 2008 -- two years before she decided to switch sports.
Earning that record on the ice where she trains was, as she put it, "icing on the cake."
Bowe said she knew if anyone could take the world record from her, it was Richardson, the woman who inspired her to move from inline skating to speed skating with her Olympic performance 2010.
"Absolutely," she said when asked if she was afraid Richardson would beat her time. "When you're done, all you can do is sit there and wait. I was definitely looking at the scoreboard, and the clock was ticking slowly. I am super happy to have both of us one and two."
The teammates were second and third in the 1,500 meters on Saturday, and Bowe said it's an advantage for them to train together.
"We're definitely on the right road," Bowe said. "Even though it is an individual sport, we push each other day in and day out and make each other better. So, it's beneficial for both of us."
Maintaining their friendship, in spite of their competition against each other, is easy, Bowe said.
"I think, in part, because we're racing against the clock," she said. "We're not scraping and scrapping out there against each other. Today I came out on top, and tomorrow Heather could come out on top. It's just awesome that we have each other. And going one and two [today] and two and three yesterday, it's definitely promising."
Bowe said skating at the same time as Russian national record holder Olga Fatkulina gave her a boost.
"Being in a good pairing helps," she said. "I needed her to pull me up to speed that first 200. I knew she would have a very fast opener. I couldn't let it get me out of control or out of my race plan. It went great, and I'm really happy."
Bowe actually trailed Fatkulina on the penultimate lap but said she wasn't worried at that stage.
"I would say that's one of my stronger points in the 1,000," she said of her ability to finish. "I opened up really fast today for me. I knew that after I saw that first lap time … it was the fastest lap I've ever skated in a race. So I knew it was going to be a good one. I just tried to stay focused, stay controlled, and the time fell."
Richardson skated in the pair after Bowe and said she was thrilled for her friend, but that she tried to remain focused on her own race.
"Of course I knew," she said smiling. "I was just trying to stay calm, though. It was a really fast race."
She said Bowe's success always inspires her.
"We train together every day, and it's great to see her up on top. We finally got that one and two we were hoping for yesterday, so I was happy we were able to pull that off today."
Bowe and Richardson showed the power of good team chemistry when they joined with Jilleanne Rookard to earn the first medal in team pursuit for the U.S. women since 2009. Their time of 2:57.09 is a new national record, although it was only good enough for third place, as the Netherlands won with a time of 2:57.26 and Canada earned silver with 2:56.90.
"That was pretty awesome despite stumbling," said Rookard, who nearly fell at the beginning of the race but was helped back into line by Bowe. "But sometimes when you're going for it, it's a little ugly. I'm just glad it turned out for the best."
The fact that the race comes at the end of three days of grueling races makes it even more difficult. Add to that the fact that Rookard is a distance specialist and Richardson and Bowe are sprinters, and it makes for some interesting combinations.
"It's a lot harder than it looks because we're all very, very different," Rookard said. "I'm even smaller than some of the Japanese (skaters) out there, and [Heather and Brittney] are as tall as it comes. I train with a lot of big Dutch boys, so it's fine."
Bowe said finishing the day with a bronze in the team pursuit was the perfect end to a dream-like weekend.
"It's definitely tough, being on the last day and being an hour or two after the 1,000 for Heather, and it is really tough," Bowe said. "But we just have to refocus, and we did a really good job of that, and we couldn't be happier."
Team pursuit coach Matt Kooreman said the fact that the women competed so well this week is extremely rewarding.
"For all of the races that these girls have done, and to be able to break the national record by two seconds, is very, very satisfying," a grinning Kooreman said.
The women's performance was the highlight of the day for the U.S. team.
"The girls' racing tells the story," Shimabukuro said. "I'm really proud of them."
In the men's 500, Japan's Keilchiro Nagashima won gold with a personal record of 34.24, while Ronald Mulder of the Netherlands was second with a national record of 34.25 seconds. Korea's Tae-Bum Mo was the bronze medalist with 34.28. U.S. skaters Mitchell Whitmore and Tucker Fredricks were seventh and 18th, , respectively.
"I wouldn't say that was a bad time," Whitmore said of his 34.52 in the 500. "It was my second-fastest time ever, so I'll take it. I would have liked it a little faster, but I'm not going to let it bother me. It was a good weekend."
In the men's 5,000, the Netherlands' Sven Kramer won gold with a track record of 6:04.59, while his countryman, Bob de Jong, earned silver with 6:07.43. Completing the sweep for the Netherlands was bronze medalist Jorrit Bergsma, who finished in 6:08.13.
The highest U.S. finisher was Jonathan Kuck, who skated a personal-best 6:09.73 to earn fifth place.
The long track team will ramp up its training this week before heading to Astana, Kazakhstan, at the end of November for the season's third World Cup.