SOCHI, Russia -- Leave it to me. I go halfway around the world to cover the Winter Olympics and the first great interview I get is with a basketball player.
Brittany Bowe, one of the rising stars on a talented U.S. long-track speedskating team, played four years as the point guard at Florida Atlantic University from 2006-10. But growing up in Ocala, Fla., Bowe's singular dream had always been to compete in the Olympics.
She had been an eight-time world champion in-line (wheels) skater as a girl. So after watching the some of her former teammates and rivals from the in-line world competing on ice in Vancouver, she decided to get back on skates. Ice skates.
"It kind of lit my fire," Bowe said Thursday in a team interview session in the Main Press Center. "I knew I needed to make the transition onto ice and move to Salt Lake City in July of 2010 to try to make this Olympic dream a reality."
Bowe was intimidated at first, but she applied herself with her usual vigor and became one of the best in the world. She made her first World Cup podium in the 1,000 meters in January, 2013, and won her first World Cup gold medal in the 1,000 six weeks later. This past November, she set a world record (1:12.58) in the 1,000 meters on a fast track at Salt Lake City.
She has become a leader on the U.S. long track team, which is the most talented American group in 12 years. Bowe's coaches credit her for helping forge the strong bond between the skaters on the national team. She said it was a natural progression from her days as a college point guard.
"In basketball, I always loved having the ball in my hands," said Bowe, whose parents grew up in Victor. Most of her extended family still lives in the Rochester. "I was the point guard. I liked being in control. On the ice, being an individual sport, I'm in control of everything I do. So I think that's pretty cool and kind of relevant.
"I never want to step on other people's shoes," she said, "but it's kind of in my blood to be a leader. Getting on the national team, I kind of led by example. I found myself within the team and found who everybody else was on the team. If you want to be a leader, it's important to know who you're working with."
It helps that teammate Heather Richardson, the 2013 world sprint champion, is her good friend and roommate. Bowe and Richardson give the U.S. a rare double sprinting threat among the women. It's also unusual because both of them are from the South, which isn't known for producing ice skaters. Richardson is from North Carolina, though she didn't play basketball as a kid.
"We've had some games together," said Bowe, who still has dreams of playing pro basketball some day. "She's getting better. She's developing a nice little jump shot, for sure."