Gangneung, South Korea • The drought is over for the United States’ long-track speedskaters — Salt Lake residents Brittany Bowe and Mia Manganello are bringing home some bronze.
Four years after the U.S. long-track skaters were shut out in Sochi, Russia, the U.S. squad of Bowe, Manganello and Heather Bergsma edged out Canada and captured third place in the team pursuit here Wednesday night.
“It just goes to show it takes a team to get you there,” Bowe said. “It’s kind of a perfect ending for the Olympics for myself personally.”
Team USA found itself in the race after the Russian skaters lost their spot in the pursuit in the wake of the nation’s athletic doping scandal. And Bowe, who was down to her last race in Pyeongchang, took advantage of the opportunity to cap her comeback story with an Olympic medal.
Bowe has had a long road to Pyeongchang. In July 2016, the Florida native who has lived in Utah since 2010 was training at the Utah Olympic Oval when she collided with another skater. For 18 months, Bowe dealt with the lingering effects of her concussion — dizziness, blood pressure issues, fainting — all the while keeping hope that she would be ready for these Olympics.
“A year ago … I wasn’t able to work out for 10 minutes without having a near fainting episode,” she said. “I was watching world singles on my couch in a really dark place.”
But Bowe had looked healthy and returning to form in South Korea the past two weeks. Three times she raced to a top-five finish. But a medal had eluded her and the rest of the U.S. long-track skaters.
That changed Wednesday night.
With the Americans a long shot to beat the Dutch and advance to the gold-medal race, the U.S. rested Bowe to keep her fresh for a shot at the bronze. With a medal on the line, Bowe and the Americans beat Canada by 45-hundredths of a second.
“It definitely wasn’t the prettiest, but hey, it’s a medal regardless,” Manganello said. “We put it all out there. Hands on the legs. Stumbling. We made it real dramatic for the viewers.”
Bowe, Manganello and Bergsma are the first U.S. long-track skaters to medal since the 2010 Games in Vancouver and the first U.S. women to win an Olympic medal in long-track since Jennifer Rodriguez did it in Salt Lake in 2002.
“It’s great. I’m not sure it has completely soaked in yet,” Bowe said. “But I know when we’re on the medal plaza getting our medals around our neck, it will probably be the coolest moment of our lives.”