SOCHI, Russia – Like most people, Brittany Bowe could barely stand up when she first laced up a pair of ice skates.
Unlike most people, four years later Bowe is one of the best in the world at speedskating and in with a shot at a Winter Olympics gold medal.
Bowe's extraordinary tale of transitioning from inline skating to a college basketball career at Florida Atlantic to being a world record holder on the ice manifests itself on Tuesday, when she takes part in the women's 500-meter event at the Adler Arena Skating Center.
"It has been one heck of a road," said Bowe. "And it isn't over yet."
Many people have goals that are so outrageously ambitious as to defy imagination. Bowe actually achieves hers and almost makes them look easy. When she says her next step is to compete in speedskating for four more years and then play pro hoops, either in the WNBA or Europe, it is probably best to nod, smile and figure that some way, somehow, she will make it happen.
She might be the only person who doesn't seem to think her road to becoming an Olympic contender is surprising and remarkable.
"When I started this it is what I expected – to be in Sochi," Bowe said. "For me the right mindset is a huge thing; it is all about mind over matter. One of the things I really took from basketball is the discipline. It is everything. It is something that I improved at in basketball and developed and I took it into speedskating."
Bowe was no slouch as a college hoops player, starting almost 100 games for the Owls and finishing her career as the eighth-leading scorer in school history.
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When the Opening Ceremony of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver took place, Bowe was sitting on her couch in Boca Raton, Fla., with a small group of friends. As she watched former inline stars Chad Hedrick and Heather Richardson – who will also race the 500 on Tuesday – parading in U.S. uniform, she felt a sudden burning desire to be an Olympian.
Never mind that she had never skated on ice at any kind of serious level.
Bowe found a willing ally in her quest with U.S. Speedskating's program that encourages former inline skaters to make the move to the ice. In the inline world Bowe had been a star, collecting 32 medals in international competition at various age levels.
Once the early adjustment had been made, her leg power from those years in skates, plus the lessons learned on the hardwood, enabled her to make rapid progress.
Last year was her breakout season, as she won a bronze medal in the World Single Distance Championships in March, and clinched a new world record in the 1,000m in November. Despite having no previous Games experience to call upon, she insisted she may have a vital mental edge over her rivals.
"When I think of everything I have experienced in sports, all the wide variety of things, it all adds up to make me what I am now," Bowe said. "Sometimes I might think back to something that happened in inline. Sometimes it might be a lesson I have taken from a great coach I had in basketball. All these things have helped to teach me how to prepare and how to compete.
"I don't get nervous; the crowd gets me amped up. I won't be thinking about anything except what is ahead of me. Whoever is able to keep the most level head will be the most successful."
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