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Q&A with Brittany Bowe

Brittany Bowe
2017 NBCUniversal Media, LLC

Q&A with Brittany Bowe

The U.S. speed skater on her personal motto, first Olympic memory and how she almost became a pro basketball player

What’s your family like?

Mother and father have been in the education system for 30+ years. Mother is currently the Dean of Student Success at the College of Central Florida (Ocala, FL) and Father is a high school teacher and basketball coach at Dixie Hollins (St. Petersburg, FL). My sister currently lives in Atlanta, GA and is involved in the performance industry as a professional dancer and choreographer.

How influential were your parents in your athletic career and in what ways?

My father has been a high school basketball, football, and track coach for 25+ years, and for as long as I can remember, I was either in the gym, on the field, or on the track with him. He resigned from his basketball coaching position when I got to high school so he could attend my games. When my school got word of this, they immediately hired him, and I had the honor to play for my dad throughout my high school basketball career. Because of both of my parents’ backgrounds, sports, education, and faith have been the center of my my and my sister’s lives.

Do you have any pets?

I do not have any pets of my own but we have two cats back home at my mom’s house in Ocala, FL. Their names are Chloe and Patches. Chloe is a special needs cat (deaf and balance problems). I'm definitely a CAT WOMAN!

In your hometown, what are your favorite spots to relax, eat out, etc.?

I love spending time in Florida's natural wonders, kayaking, swimming, and enjoying the sun: Silver Springs, Salt Springs, Crystal River, & Devil’s Den are all within 40 minutes of Ocala and ALL MUST SEE LOCATIONS!

A few hours outside of Ocala is St. Augustine. My godparents own a beach house just south of the city and it is one my favorite places in the world to unwind and relax.

FOOD: Some of the best wings and fries I've ever had are right in Ocala at Crunchies & Munchies. I think it should be a candidate for “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives”!

What’s your music of choice while training?

Electronic music--Adventure Club's Superhero Anonymous mixtapes are always on my iPod along with almost anything from Seven Lions, Bassnectar, Sub Focus, and Above and Beyond.

How much time do you spend training each day?

4-6 hours

What’s your typical training schedule?

May to August is pre-season training. Spend a lot of time on the bike, in the weight room and building strength in skating position through off-skate exercises.

August to November is more skating specific, building strength in the skating position on ice and pushing the lactate threshold.

November to March we are in our competition season and while we are still training hard, the focus is to be fresh for certain competitions and peeking in February at the Olympics!

What is your favorite workout or fitness trend?

I love going back to my roots and getting back on my inline skates for fitness.

What’s the most grueling work out you’ve ever done?

My coach puts us through some pretty grueling interval workouts on the ice. The lactic acid that you can build on the ice is like no other pain I have felt.

What would people be surprised to learn about training for the Olympics?

Although the Olympics is the pinnacle sporting event of the world, the training and preparation is no different than races we prepare for "the other 3 years". Training for the Olympics requires a focused, dedicated, and passionate train of thought so you are prepared to perform when the pressure is at an all-time high.

Is there anything you do for training that’s out of the ordinary or experimental?

Together with Under Armour and Specialized, we do extensive wind tunnel testing on our racing suits.

Have you ever been seriously injured? What did it take for you to come back from that injury?

At the end of last summer, I collided with my teammate during training and suffered a concussion. What I thought would be a few weeks recovery time has turned into 8 months—as I sit here writing this response from Colorado Springs at the Olympic Training Center receiving care for my condition.

I have been struggling with post-concussive syndrome for months, which has caused vast vestibular issues and autonomic dysfunction. I was diagnosed with POTS in October and have been struggling with blood pressure issues and fainting episodes ever since. I am now under the care of a team of doctors in Colorado and this will be home until I am back to full health.

I tried to make something of my season this year—juggling rehab and training in hopes of competing at the World Championships and defending my World Sprint title. I was able to lace my skates up for one competition this past year, where I earned a bronze medal in the 1000m—the first and only 1000m I was able to skate this past year.

That really boosted my confidence and I thought I was "over the hump" in my recovery process. Little did I know, I was to prepare for the worst yet. The day before US Nationals, I had a vertigo attack in the middle of the night that lead to a fainting episode. I was unable to compete at Nationals and made the tough decision to step away for the remainder of the season to focus on my health.

This has turned into a very complex case and a constant uphill battle to recovery but I am doing everything in my power to get back to full health, back to the starting line, and back to the top of the podium.

What is your earliest memory of doing or seeing skating?

My earliest memory of seeing my sport was in 2002 at the Salt Lake City Olympics. My inline skating coach, Renee Hildebrand, and I went to SLC to watch the Olympics together. I remember seeing Derek [Parra], Joey [Cheek], Chris [Witty], Jenn [Rodriguez], and Apolo [Ohno] win their medals.

For as long as I can remember, my dream has always been to be an Olympian. It wasn't until watching the 2010 Winter Games that I realistically could drop everything and pursue my dream. It was my last semester of college—I was sitting on the couch with my roommate watching some of my friends and competitors from the inline world walking in the Opening Ceremony, racing, and standing on the podium.

At this time, my college basketball coach was helping me find an agent to pursue a professional basketball career. I had a meeting with my coach soon after and told her that I'd decided to set my basketball career aside and I was going to move to SLC and become an Olympian.

Was there a specific “breakthough” moment/competition when you finally realized you could compete in your sport at a high enough level to reach the Olympics?

I can't think of a specific breakthrough moment when I realized I could compete in my sport at a high enough level to reach the Olympics—but it was in 2013 at the World Championships/Test Event for Sochi where I earned my first world medal (bronze) in the 1000m (less than 3 years on the ice) when I realized I could compete with the best in the world and really had a shot to do something special with my career.

What's something cool, weird intense about your sport that people don't normally see?

I'm not sure what people think about the racing suits that we wear but they may not realize that we are racing in a VERY tight, rubber suit.

Who is your coach? How long have you been working together and what’s your relationship like?

Matt Kooreman. We have been working together since the summer of 2014. We have a great relationship/understanding, respectful of one another. He has really helped me get my skating to the highest level—not by something magical, but keeping it simple, keeping it focused, and plain ol' hard work!

Who do you socialize with most within your sport or any sport?

My teammates are like family to me. If there's a moment where I want to go out for a coffee, dinner, hike, or just hang out, my teammates are the first on my list to call.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

"Don't overskate."

What's a big obstacle that you've overcome in your life?

Currently trying to overcome a concussion, which has now been a nine month recovery process.

What is your biggest fear when competing?

I wouldn't call it a fear, but in the overall "big picture," the thought of not achieving what I've set out to do is scary.

Who is your Olympic role model?

Bonnie Blair.

Within your sport, who has been your greatest influence and why?

My two biggest influences have been the two coaches I've had to date, Ryan Shimabukuro and Matt Kooreman. These two coaches have given me the tools, coaching, direction, and confidence I need to be where I am today. I feel very blessed to have had these two coaches and I'm forever grateful for the sacrifices they have made for me and my teammates throughout the years.

What athlete in any sport has been your greatest source of inspiration?

The first name that comes to mind is Dan Jansen. His story is beyond inspiring and he defines the phrase "never give up". From going into the 1988 Winter Games as World Sprint Champion and a favorite to win Olympic medals, to hearing of his sister's death during the Games, to falling in two races at the Games. Fast forward to the 1992 Games, and he again comes home medal-less. In 1994 he captures the World Sprint Championship title again and heads to the Olympics for one final try at a medal. After falling short of a medal in the 500m, he goes to the line for the last time. Not only did DJ win his first and only Olympic medal of his career, he set a new world record in the process. Dan's story is inspiring to me because he knew what it felt like to be the best, the be the world champion, yet he fell short of the ultimate prize on a few occasions. He was faced with the loss of his sister, faced with defeat, yet he didn't give up.

What advice would you give to a young child just starting out in speed skating?

HAVE FUN! Work hard, stay focused, but HAVE FUN!

Who is your biggest rival? Is it friendly or contentious?

Fellow American Heather Richardson. It's a friendly rivalry. Heather and I have known each other since we were young, racing on inline skates. Heather has set the bar high year after year and we continue to battle one another, pushing the boundaries on speed and lowering world record times year after year. When it's time to race, we are both battling for the same prize—but what's nice about long track speed skating is, whoever is the fastest that day wins. No questions asked—it's you vs. the clock.

Have you become close friends with any competitors from other countries? What about any from South Korea?

I have some close friends in Holland that I've met through and competed against on the World Cup circuit. I have a ton of respect for South Korean Lee Sang-Hwa, who is the current world record holder in the 500m. I know the arena will be booming when she gets to the start line. The first Olympic race of my career in Sochi, I was paired with her in the 500m—let's just say that was a pretty intimidating race for me. I would like to have the opportunity to try that again this time around in Korea :)

Are you a fan of any other sports, or any particular athletes or teams you follow?

NFL. I'm more of a collegiate sports fan but since I'm now an avid fantasy football player, I follow every team I have a player playing for. I went to college with Alfred Morris so I'm definitely a fan of his. I have his Redskins jersey, I guess I need to get his Cowboys jersey now.

Do you play any other sports?

Former Division I basketball player—point guard. I play when I can.

Which Summer Olympic sport would you like to try?

I would definitely like to be on the U.S. women's basketball team.

Who was the most influential in helping you achieve your dreams?

First and foremost, my family. My mom and dad have sacrificed so much so that my sister and I could and currently can chase our dreams.

How and where do you train over the summer?

I train in Salt Lake City. Summer training is full of base building/cardio building/strength building. We are putting a lot of miles in on the bike, sweating a lot in the weight room, and the summer time gives me a chance to put my inline skates on and log some good miles there.

What is your favorite perk of being an elite Olympic athlete?

In the "world" of athletes, it is pretty special to have full access to the facility and staff at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.

What are your pre-competition rituals?

I usually get to the rink about 3 hours before my race. I will warm up off skates for about 45 minutes, get on the ice for a 20 minute skate, cool down, relax, and refocus. About an hour before the gun is scheduled to go off before my race, I will start my pre-race warmup routine, put my race suit on, and head out to center ice 15 minutes before the gun goes off. I will do my final preparations, lace my skates up, and go!

Do you have a lucky charm that you can’t compete without?

I always have my grandmother's rosary in my backpack.

Do you have a nickname?

BBowe. My inline skating coach was the first one to call me BBowe when I was young and it has stuck around ever since.

Do you have any tattoos?

I have a stairway to heaven along the right side of my body. I have my grandmother’s rosary wrapped around my hands in the piece. I have an Owl on the inside of my left arm—yes, Florida Atlantic University's alma mater is The Owls—but, I just like it.

Brittany Bowe tattoo

Credit: 2013 NBCUniversal Media LLC

What’s your favorite animal? Have you ever seen it in person?

Panda. I have seen a panda in a zoo from behind the glass but I would LOVE to play with baby panda bears. The number of panda bear zoo keeper videos on the internet make me so jealous!

What charities do you support? How did you become involved?

Right to Play. I became involved with Right to Play because of the involvement that Olympic champion Joey Cheek has in it. After donating his Olympic medal money to Right to Play in 2006, I read about the organization and knew I would love to be a part of it someday.

If you were not an athlete, what would you be doing?

Oh my gosh, I have no idea! Being an athlete is in my blood. I've never been as passionate for anything else like I am with sport. Mission work is always something I have talked about doing—I hope that through athletics, I can create a platform to inspire and help others.

When you have time off, what would constitute a perfect day for you?

A perfect day off would entail a lot of time outdoors—whether it be by the water, hiking, or hanging out at a park. A good cup of coffee and a cafe would definitely be included.

How do you unwind after a competition?

Usually just hang out with family if they are able to be there or just enjoy a nice dinner and go to sleep!

Do you have any fears?

Spiders and snakes... those are probably the top two on my list!

Do you like to travel?  What has been the most special place you have traveled to and why?

I love to travel. One of the most memorable travel moments was a trip to Barcelona, Spain last year after winning my World Sprint Title. I was in Holland, visiting my girlfriend, before the last World Cup of the season. We had a few days off of training and she surprised me with a trip to Barcelona. It was my first time there and I can't wait to go back!

What's your personal motto?

Something that has stuck with me ever since I was little, that my inline coach Renee Hildebrand used to always tell us, is practice doesn't make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.

What are some of your hobbies?

When I'm home in Florida, I love going to the natural springs that are around the area. I love kayaking through the rivers and enjoy the relaxing, quiet, beauty that is around me. Being outside is relaxing, whether it's at the springs, on the beach, in the mountains of Utah, or simply at the park, those are all hobbies of mine.

What are your favorite TV shows?

This is Us, Fixer Upper, Chopped

What are your favorite movies?

I'm all across the board with this one, from The Imitation Game to The Blind Side, Chef, Mad Money and Zootopia.

What are your top five beauty/grooming products?

Bare Minerals makeup, Degree Motion Sense deodorant, Philips Sonicare toothbrush, Dr. Organic Tea Tree toothpaste, EOS chapstick

Outside of training for your sport, what physical routine makes you feel your best?

Power Yoga

What are five must-have items you always keep in your gym bag?

Water bottle, USANA (single serve) Nutrimeal Meal Replacement pack, Degree Motion Sense deodorant, iPod shuffle, EOS chapstick

Have you been to South Korea before? What are you most looking forward to about the Games being hosted in South Korea? Anything you want to see or do?

Yes. The hospitality has always been top notch during my trips to South Korea. Anything I want to see/do? Yes, I want to see my flag raised and sing my national anthem! :)

Do you like kimchi or any other Korean foods?

YES! Kimchi and Korean BBQ

Have you ever done karaoke? What’s your go-to karaoke song?

Yes, the first place I ever did karaoke was in South Korea during an inline skating World Cup many years ago. Singing isn't really one of my talents, I don't have a go-to song. Maybe something by Destiny's Child.

What will success look like for you in PyeongChang? What are your goals?

My goal is to stand on top of that Olympic podium, watch the American flag raised, and sing my national anthem.

Will you head home for the holidays prior to the Games? What do you most look forward to? If not, where will you celebrate and with whom?

No, Olympic Trials will be the focus around the holiday season. After trials we will have a recovery week before heading into our pre-Olympic training camp. It is then that I will go home to Florida for a few days to recover under the FL sunshine.

What’s on your Christmas or holiday list this year?

Haven't even thought about it! The past few years my mom and sister have come out to SLC to spend Christmas together—it would be nice to keep that tradition alive. The best holiday gift for an athlete in my sport would have to be a spot on the Olympic Team. I guess that's #1 on my list too!

Speed Skating

Read more Q&A's with the U.S. speed skating team:

Heather Bergsma | Joey Mantia | Brittany Bowe | KC Boutiette | Mia Manganello | Mitch Whitmore | Sugar Todd | Emery Lehman | Brian Hansen

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