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Two-time Olympian Brittany Bowe captures gold, world record as Utah's Olympic Oval sees four new records set

KEARNS — Brittany Bowe watched as the pair of skaters racing just before her at the ISU long track World Cup both broke the world record for her favorite distance on the ice where she trains.

It created both anxiety and excitement as the two-time Olympian took the ice just after Miho Takagi and Nao Kodaira, who owned two world records coming into this weekend, both beat the former fastest time in the world for 1000 meters — 1:12.09.

“I’m watching Miho and Nao, and they both go 1:11.7, and I thought, ‘That’s going to be a tough act to follow,'” said Bowe after capturing both the 1000-meter gold and a new world record with her time of 1:11.61, edging Japan’s best — Takagi, who earned silver with a time of 1:11.71, and Kodaira, who earned bronze with 1:11.77. “When someone breaks a world record, there is a little bit of a delay going to the start line. I knew I had to have close to a perfect race.” Rising in the mix of pressure and excitement was the confidence that she had the ability to break that newly set world record with her best effort.

“I knew if I had the opener I was capable of, and did a 6:30, that I had a chance to bat it. I looked up on the board and my first lap, and it was 6.3, and I just willed my way to the finish line.”

Bowe’s golden record caps a season in which she earned both the overall World Cup title and the single distance World Championship in her favorite distance — 1000 meters. She said she will attempt to savor the win — and recapturing the world record that Kodaira took from her last season — before preparing for Sunday’s 500 and 1500 meter events at the Utah Olympic Oval.

“I’m definitely going to enjoy this one for a couple of minutes, through dinner at least,” she said, clutching a huge stuffed owl that fans had thrown on the ice after her victory. “And then get a good night’s sleep, recover, refocus. Tomorrow is a new day.”

If Saturday’s races were any indication of what’s to come, it will be another special day at the oval. World records were broken six times, with four of those standing, as two were broken in the same race.

“The ice is always fast here,” Bowe said. “When we’re doing a World Cup or World Championships or a World Cup final, they’re always going to make the ice as fast as possible.” In addition to proving Utah’s oval still has the “fastest ice on earth," she said it shows just how much stronger the skaters are. She said the performance of the Japanese skaters was energizing.

“Nao was and still is phenomenal,” she said. “She got my record last year, and I definitely wanted that one back. That was one of my goals this year. So for her and Miho to both go under that world-record pace, as the first two ladies to skate under 112, I had to have close to a perfect race. ... I was blessed to come out on top.”

As Bowe raced, the crowd was deafening. Making her way to the ice for a hug after Bowe’s record-setting performance was her mother.

“It just makes everything that much sweeter,” she said of having her family in the crowd for the moment.

Bowe’s goal this season was to focus on a single competition at a time after struggling to fully recover from a concussion she suffered in July 2016. She’s steadily improved, and this year was one that began with incredible promise.

“This year I've just built my confidence race after race after race and being a time-trial sport out here, it's you versus the clock,” Bowe said. “Confidence goes a long way, so to be able to replicate those wins and successful races, it helps a ton.”

The first race Sunday is the women’s 1500 meters at 1:30, with the men following that event. In each race, the top 12 athletes in the world compete in their final World Cup of the season.