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Speedskater gives up spot in Olympic event for teammate and childhood friend

Brittany Bowe said the top-ranked Erin Jackson "earned her right to be on this 500-meter team."
/ Source: TODAY

There are friends, and there are really good friends.

And on Sunday, we learned just what kind of pals speedskaters Brittany Bowe and Erin Jackson really are: the best kind.

That's because Bowe, 33, who won three events at the recent U.S. Olympic speedskating trials in Milwaukee, ceded her Olympic spot in one of them to make sure the top-ranked female 500-meter skater in the world — Jackson, 29 — will be able to join the team at the 2022 Beijing Olympics.

During the trials, Jackson slipped in her race and finished third, costing her a spot in the Games. But Bowe, who's been friends with Jackson since childhood, had an idea.

"Erin earned her right to be on this 500-meter team. She's ranked No. 1 in the world," she told NBC Sports. "No one is more deserving than her to get an opportunity to bring Team USA home a medal. After that unfortunate slip I knew in my mind before that night was even over that if it had to come down to a decision of mine, she could have my place."

Jackson competing in Milwaukee on Friday. Stacy Revere / Getty Images

"In my heart, there was never a question," she said.

On Tuesday, the two joined TODAY to discuss the act of kindness.

Bowe reflected on the uniqueness of their situation and said it's "very, very cool to find ourselves in this position today."

She also recalled the “very deflated atmosphere in that rink” after Jackson’s slip and emphasized how something that appears so minor to the audience is actually a big deal for speedskaters.

“My heart sank when it happened,” she said. “For us speedskaters, that wasn’t a little bobble — that was actually a huge bobble.”

Erin Jackson and Brittany Bowe speak to the media on Jan. 9, 2022, in Milwaukee. Stacy Revere / Getty Images

Jackson emphasized Bowe "was just an awesome mentor from day one" and that she always admired her growing up.

"It's nice for the world to see kind of what an amazing person she is — like what I've seen all these years," Jackson said.

Jackson posted a photo of herself on the ice on Instagram and another one with Bowe on Monday, writing in part, "Definitely not the way I imagined qualifying for my second Olympic team... but I guess I had to one-up my story from the 2018 Trials. I'm incredibly grateful and humbled by the kindness of @BrittanyBowe in helping me to secure a chance at reaching my goals in #Beijing2022. She's an amazing friend, teammate, and mentor and this is an act I’ll never forget. You can bet I’ll be the loudest voice in the oval cheering for her in the 1000 and 1500 next month."

Both women grew up in Ocala, Florida, and started inline skating with Olympian Joey Mantia. "We have a photo of Erin standing between myself and Joey," Bowe told The Associated Press, "and she comes up to maybe our chest. We go back very far."

Bowe competing in the women's 1,000 meter event at the Milwaukee trials on Thursday. Stacy Revere / Getty Images

The extra good news: Ceding the spot won't prevent Bowe from competing. She'll still be in the 1,000 meters and 1,500 meters at next month's Games.

Bowe could still compete in the 500, though. According to the AP, the final Olympic quota allocations won't be determined until later in January, and the U.S. could get another placement in the race.

Talk about a win-win!

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