Erin Jackson will compete at Olympics after teammate Bowe gives up spot (video)

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On Sunday, U.S. speed skater Erin Jackson won gold in the 500-meter at the 2022 Winter Olympics. Following a slip at U.S. Olympic Trials, Jackson initially failed to qualify for the Beijing Winter Games – until her teammate and friend Brittany Bowe gave up her spot in the event. Bowe ultimately was able to compete in the 500-meter event, too, after quota spots were reallocated.


Originally published: January 9, 2022

Speed skater Erin Jackson is set to compete at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics after her U.S. teammate Brittany Bowe decided give up her own 500-meter spot.

Bowe – who also qualified in the 1000m and 1500m – had been hinting at such making such a decision ever since Jackson – the world’s top woman in the 500m –  slipped during her marquee event on Friday night at U.S. Olympic Speed Skating Trials in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Despite the bobble, Jackson crossed the line in 38.24 seconds, good enough for third place behind Bowe and Kimi Goetz.

“Before we left the building on Friday night, I had to give Erin a hug and told her that… if it came down to me, she could have my spot because she earned it,” Bowe said on Sunday.

After also qualifying for the 1000m and 1500m, the decision was – indeed – Bowe’s to make. She decided to make it official today after receiving a notice from U.S. Speed Skating telling her to come to the rink for the official Olympic team announcement and champagne celebration.

“I just had to make my official call because I couldn’t have had a celebratory time without Erin there,” Bowe said.

Brittany Bowe’s decision – while the epitome of sportsmanship and kindness – is also good for Team USA’s Olympic outlook

So far this season, Jackson has finished on the podium at six of eight World Cup 500-meter races, including four wins. With that first win in October, the 29-year-old became the first Black woman to win a long track speed skating World Cup race.

“Erin has a shot to bring home a medal – hopefully a gold medal – and it’s my honor to give her that opportunity. She’s earned it and she deserves it,” Bowe said.

Bowe and Jackson grew up in Ocala, Florida, where they both competed in inline skating before making the transition to the ice. Bowe made her Olympic debut in 2014, while Jackson qualified for her first Olympic Games in 2018 after only four cumulative months of on-ice training.

Jackson, who is four years younger, has long looked up to Bowe.

“I’ve known her almost my whole life,” Jackson said. “I’ve always known what an incredible person she is… She’s always been there for me, helping me out, even when I was the new kid back in Ocala. [She’s] always been an awesome mentor and an amazing friend if I ever need advice.”

How did Erin Jackson end up in this position if she’s the best 500m speed skater in the world?

Every sport – and country – handles Olympic qualification differently.

If Erin Jackson competed in alpine skiing or biathlon or cross-country skiing, she wouldn’t have even needed to compete in an event like Olympic Trials. Her international results alone would have earned her the spot.

If she represented the Netherlands, the most dominant speed skating nation in the world, she would have had two chances – not one – to prove herself in the 500m. Essentially a built-in re-skate.

If she had been injured – or caught Covid – prior to U.S. Olympic Trials, she likely would have been granted a medical exemption by U.S. Speed Skating, based on her status as an Olympic medal contender.

And if she had fallen in Friday’s 500m – rather than slipped – it’s possible she could have been granted a re-skate. Per U.S. Speed Skating rules – which are more lenient than those issued by the International Skating Union (ISU) – re-skates may be issued after “an unintentional fall.”

“The rules are, you have to fall to get a re-skate,” Jackson said in her post-race interview. “Making it so you have to fall to get the re-skate, it’s kind of encouraging people to take the sit if they have a stumble like mine.”

Jackson admitted that the idea of falling flashed through her mind. “But I think it’s a bad idea to encourage that,” she said.

It is still possible that Bowe will be able to compete in the 500m at the upcoming Beijing Winter Games. While the U.S. currently has only two quota spots, it is possible the American team will get a third spot once other countries officially accept or decline quota spots.

MORE SPEED SKATING NEWS: Meet the 49-year-old speed skater set to become the oldest female Winter Olympian

U.S. Women’s Speed Skating Team for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics:

  • Erin Jackson (500m)
  • Brittany Bowe (1000m, 1500m)
  • Kimi Goetz (500m, 1000m)
  • Mia Manganello Kilburg (1500m, 3000m, mass start)
  • Giorgia Birkeland (mass start)

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Crystal Dunn returns to USWNT roster five months after giving birth

Nigeria v USWNT
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Crystal Dunn was named to the USWNT roster for two upcoming friendlies against England and Spain, marking her first official selection since giving birth to son Marcel in May.

Dunn made her NWSL return with the Portland Thorns earlier this month and also trained with the U.S. team as a non-rostered player ahead of friendlies vs. Nigeria.

In addition to Dunn, the 24-player roster features a veteran core of Alyssa Naeher, Becky Sauerbrunn, Rose Lavelle, Lindsey Horan, Mallory Pugh, and Megan Rapinoe.

Alex Morgan was not named to the USWNT roster due to a knee injury. While U.S. head coach Vlatko Andonovski did not provide details of the injury, he noted that “if this was a World Cup final, Alex was going to be on this trip and was going to play, no question.”

Other roster highlights include 17-year-old Alyssa Thompson, who becomes the first player born in 2004 to receive a USWNT call-up. Thomas, a high senior, plays club soccer for the U-17 Total Futbol Academy boys’ team.

“We are very excited for her, very excited about her potential and qualities and looking forward to seeing how she will turn out in our environment,” Andonovski said of Thompson. “This camp is not make it or break it. It’s a first experience for her, it’s just something that she shouldn’t even worry about.”

The USWNT also includes a handful of players who have made their USWNT breakthrough this season — thanks in part to both strong NWSL play and injuries to more veteran players. That list includes the likes of Naomi Girma (7 caps), Taylor Kornieck (5 caps), Hailie Mace (5 caps), Sam Coffey (1 cap), and Savannah DeMelo (0 caps).

Andonovski on Thursday called Coffey, a midfielder for the Portland Thorns, a candidate for NWSL MVP.


USWNT Roster for October 2022 Friendlies vs. England and Spain

Goalkeepers (3):

  • Aubrey Kingsbury (Washington Spirit)
  • Casey Murphy (North Carolina Courage)
  • Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars)

Defenders(7):

  • Alana Cook (OL Reign)
  • Crystal Dunn (Portland Thorns FC)
  • Emily Fox (Racing Louisville FC)
  • Naomi Girma (San Diego Wave FC)
  • Sofia Huerta (OL Reign)
  • Hailie Mace (Kansas City Current)
  • Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns FC)

Midfielders (8):

  • Sam Coffey (Portland Thorns FC)
  • Savannah DeMelo (Racing Louisville FC)
  • Lindsey Horan (Olympique Lyon, FRA)
  • Taylor Kornieck (San Diego Wave FC)
  • Rose Lavelle (OL Reign)
  • Kristie Mewis (NJ/NY Gotham FC)
  • Ashley Sanchez (Washington Spirit)
  • Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit)

Forwards (6):

  • Ashley Hatch (Washington Spirit)
  • Mallory Pugh (Chicago Red Stars)
  • Megan Rapinoe (OL Reign)
  • Trinity Rodman (Washington Spirit)
  • Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns FC)
  • Alyssa Thompson (Total Futbol Academy)

Follow Alex Azzi on Twitter @AlexAzziNBC

Justine Wong-Orantes’ atypical path to becoming one of the best liberos in the world

Justine Wong-Orantes hits the ball in the women's semi-final volleyball match between USA and Serbia during the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
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It’s been 20 years since the same nation held both the Olympic and world volleyball titles at the same time, but libero Justine Wong-Orantes is looking to help lead Team USA accomplish that very feat at the 2022 FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championships in the Netherlands and Poland. Competition began on Friday and the U.S. is currently 2-0 after group play wins against Kazakhstan and Canada.

“We’re trying to win, for sure,” Wong-Orantes told On Her Turf. “I think, especially with the new turn of the program and the new year of the quad, we just have a really nice blend of veterans and also newcomers on the team.”

The 14-woman roster for Team USA, which is ranked No. 1 in the world and won its first Olympic title last summer, features six players from that gold-medal-winning team. And while Wong-Orantes is among the 2021 U.S. Olympic team veterans, she’s still a relative newcomer to international play.

The Southern California native enjoyed a notable junior career – she was 12 when she became the youngest female to ever earn an AAA rating in beach volleyball – and was a standout collegian at Nebraska, where she was a member of the 2015 NCAA championship team. But Wong-Orantes followed a different path upon graduation, initially choosing not to go overseas to play professionally.

While she was first selected for the U.S. national team in 2016 and played a handful of international tournaments in the following years, it wasn’t until she started playing professionally in Germany in 2019 that she saw the potential to elevate her position on the roster. In particular, the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Olympics gave her an additional year of overseas experience, which she calls “a blessing in disguise.”

“I just felt like I was still in that developmental stage,” she said. “And a whole year postponement allowed me to go overseas and really get all the touches, all the repetitions, and just kind of expose myself to international volleyball another year. So I was, in hindsight, pretty thankful for that COVID season because I got an extra year under my belt, and I think that just gave me a ton of confidence.”

Ahead of the Olympics, Wong-Orantes earned “best libero” honors at the 2021 FIVB Volleyball National League in Rimini, Italy, which helped secure her spot on the Olympic roster. In Tokyo, she followed up with another standout performance and was named best libero of the Olympic tournament.

As to how the Wong-Orantes transformed into one of the world’s top liberos, she points to her background as a beach volleyball player. She began competing at age 8, and her first partner was Sara Hughes, a star on the AVP Pro Tour who also won two NCAA titles with USC.

“I think having that background and just the court awareness that beach volleyball forces you to have allowed me to really have a good read on the game,” said Wong-Orantes. “I think that’s what makes a great libero is just reading and always being reactive towards the ball.”

Wong-Orantes also credits the assistance of mental coach Sue Enquist, a former UCLA softball coach and U.S. national team coach, who now helps teams work on their culture and relationships. Enquist began working with the U.S. volleyball team during the pandemic and has continued in her role ever since.

“We just worked on a lot of stuff within ourselves, within our program, how to communicate with each other off the court, and I think that honestly propelled us into such a high, high level with how we worked with each other, and then that transferred onto the court,” explained Wong-Orantes, who noted the team has Enquist on speed dial while at the World Championship. “I really commend Sue. I just really give a lot of praise to her because I think our culture was never bad, but I think [she] just transformed into a different level.”

2022-09-26 - FIVB Volleyball Womens World Championship 2022 - Day 4
ARNHEM, NETHERLANDS – Justine Wong-Orantes (far right) poses for a photo with her U.S. teammates after defeating Canada at the 2022 FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship on September 26, 2022. (Photo by Rene Nijhuis/Orange Pictures/BSR Agency/Getty Images)

Wong-Orantes said she and her U.S. teammates are on their toes for the world championships, which features twice as many teams (24) as the Olympics and a “more grueling” format.

“It’s going to be a long tournament, and I think we’re really going to need all 14 of us that are here. I’m pretty certain that, at any given moment, someone’s going to be called on and someone’s going to need to step up in big moments.”