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Brittany Bowe, of Salt Lake City, gets ready to start the women's 1,500 meter at Adler Arena Skating Center during the 2014 Sochi Olympics Sunday February 16, 2014. Bowe finished in fourteenth place with a time of 1:58.31. 
(Photo by Chris Detrick/The Salt Lake Tribune)U.S. Olympic Winter Games long track speedskating hopeful Brittany Bowe poses for a portrait at the 2017 Team USA media summit Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017, in Park City, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)Brittany Bowe, of Salt Lake City, reacts after competing in the women's 1,500 meter at Adler Arena Skating Center during the 2014 Sochi Olympics Sunday February 16, 2014. Bowe finished in fourteenth place with a time of 1:58.31. 
(Photo by Chris Detrick/The Salt Lake Tribune)Brittany Bowe, of Salt Lake City, competes in the women's 1,500 meter at Adler Arena Skating Center during the 2014 Sochi Olympics Sunday February 16, 2014. Bowe finished in fourteenth place with a time of 1:58.31. 
(Photo by Chris Detrick/The Salt Lake Tribune)Brittany Bowe, of West Jordan, competes in the women's 1,000 meter speed skating race at Adler Arena Skating Center in the during the 2014 Sochi Olympics Thursday February 13, 2014. Bowe finished in eighth place with a time of 1:15.47.

(Photo by Chris Detrick/The Salt Lake Tribune)Brittany Bowe, of West Jordan, reacts after competing in the women's 1,000 meter speed skating race at Adler Arena Skating Center in the during the 2014 Sochi Olympics Thursday February 13, 2014. Bowe finished in eighth place with a time of 1:15.47.

(Photo by Chris Detrick/The Salt Lake Tribune)Trent Nelson  |  The Salt Lake Tribune
Brittany Bowe sets a world record in the ladies 1000m speed skating at the ISU World Cup, at the Utah Olympic Oval in Kearns, Sunday November 22, 2015.Brittany Bowe of the U.S. celebrates after the women's 1000 meter race of the Speedskating World Cup final at Thialf ice rink in Heerenveen, Netherlands, Sunday, March 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)Brittany Bowe of the U.S. competes during the women's 1000 meter race of the Speedskating World Cup final at Thialf ice rink in Heerenveen, Netherlands, Sunday, March 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)Trent Nelson  |  The Salt Lake Tribune
Brittany Bowe, after setting a world record in the ladies 1000m speed skating at the ISU World Cup, at the Utah Olympic Oval in Kearns, Sunday November 22, 2015.Brittany Bowe of the U.S. skates during the women's 500 meter race of the Speedskating World Cup final at Thialf ice rink in Heerenveen, Netherlands, Saturday, March 12, 2016. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)Brittany Bowe of the U.S. celebrates after the women's 1000 meter race of the Speedskating World Cup final at Thialf ice rink in Heerenveen, Netherlands, Sunday, March 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)Trent Nelson  |  The Salt Lake Tribune
Brittany Bowe points to friends and fans after setting a world record in the ladies 1000m speed skating at the ISU World Cup, at the Utah Olympic Oval in Kearns, Sunday November 22, 2015.Brittany Bowe, of the United States, celebrates setting a new world record of 1 minute, 51.59 seconds during the women's 1,500 meters at the World Cup speedskating event in Calgary, Alberta, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015. (Lyle Aspinall/The Canadian Press via AP)Second-place Heather Bergsman. left; winner Brittany Bowe, both of the United States; and third-place Martina Sablikova, of the Czech Republic, share the podium after the women's 1,500 meters at the World Cup speedskating event in Calgary, Alberta, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015. (Lyle Aspinall/The Canadian Press via AP)New world champion Heather Richardson of the U.S., center and gold medal, Brittany Bowe of the U.S., left and silver medal, and Nao Kodaira of Japan, right and bronze medal, pose on the podium of the women's 500 meter race of the speedskating single distance world championships at Thialf ice rink in Heerenveen, Netherlands, Saturday, Feb. 14, 2015. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)Brittany Bowe, of the United States, waves atop the podium after skating to a new world record of 1 minute, 51:59 seconds during the women's 1,500 meters at the World Cup speedskating event in Calgary, Alberta, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015. (Lyle Aspinall/The Canadian Press via AP)Second placed Brittany Bowe of the U.S skates in the ladies' 1000-meter Division A event at the World Cup speed skating stage in Astana, Kazakhstan, Sunday, Dec.1, 2013. (AP Photo/Alexei Filippov)Winner Brittany Bowe of the US competes during the women's 1,000 meter distance at the Speed Skating World Cup in Erfurt, Germany, Sunday, March 3, 2013. (AP Photo/Jens Meyer)Brittany Bowe, of the United States, reacts wearing her bronze medal after failing to defend the title at women's 1000 meter race of the speedskating single distance World Championships in Kolomna, Russia, on Friday, Feb. 12, 2016. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)U.S. speedskater Brittany Bowe speaks during a 2014 Winter Olympics news conference, Thursday, Feb. 6, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)Brittany Bowe of the U.S. attends an awarding ceremony after the World Speed Skating Sprint Championship in Astana, Kazakhstan, Sunday, March 1, 2015. Brittany Bowe took first place. (AP Photo/Alexei Filippov)Third placed Brittany Bowe of the USA skates in the women's 1000 meter race, during the ISU World Single Distances Speed Skating Championships 2013 in Adler-Arena in Sochi, Russia, Saturday, March 23, 2013. (AP Photo/Mikhail Metzel)Brittany Bowe of USA skates during the women's ISU World Speed Skating Sprint Championship 500 meter event in Astana, Kazakhstan, Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015. Brittany Bowe placed first. (AP Photo/Alexei Filippov)U.S. Olympic Winter Games long track speedskating hopeful Brittany Bowe poses for a portrait at the 2017 Team USA media summit Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017, in Park City, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)U.S. Olympic Winter Games long track speedskating hopeful Brittany Bowe poses for a portrait at the 2017 Team USA media summit Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017, in Park City, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)FILE - In this Feb. 28, 2016, file photo, Brittany Bowe, of the United States, skates during the ladies' 1,000-meter race of the ISU World Sprint Speed Skating Championships in Seoul, South Korea. Bowe is getting back on track at the speedskating oval after the Olympian missed time recently because of concussion symptoms. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man, File)

The blindside collision dismantled nearly everything Brittany Bowe knew of herself.

The persistent symptoms that ranged from dizziness to blood pressure issues to fainting episodes to inability to focus when necessary, were all bouts Bowe encountered every day for nearly 18 months. Every single day, she said. Post-concussion syndrome injected into the American long-track speedskating star a sensation she never had dealt with and never truly encountered in her drive toward an Olympic medal:

Fear.

Friends would see Bowe, tell her she looked in great shape, seemed in great spirits, but in her mind, she told herself that they didn’t understand where she really was, how she felt fractured at times.

“I would like to believe that one of my strong suits has always been being super mentally tough and mentally strong, and that’s one of the things I feel like the injury stripped me from,” Bowe said. “I kind of lost that mental toughness and ability to fight through things.”

Bowe and a teammate collided on the ice at the Utah Olympic Oval on a warm summer day in July 2016.

“It was a freak accident,” the 29-year-old said.

Every day since has been a test of her will.

Bowe finally returned to the ice last December, six months after the concussion, in Heerenveen, Netherlands, where she won a World Cup bronze medal. She was also a couple tenths of a second away from gold. That was supposed to be the turning point. That was supposed to be the end of the nightmare. But Bowe, a one-time point guard at Florida Atlantic University, felt the onset of similar symptoms when she returned home to Salt Lake City.

Bowe fainted in her home a night before the U.S. nationals at the Oval. The battle was far from over.

“At times,” she said, “I didn’t even know if I would be able to put my skates on again and skate.”

The long, long road back

Joey Mantia noticed. Everyone at U.S. Speedskating did. It was impossible to miss her daily dose of hope nosedive once Bowe laced up to only unlace her skates soon after.

“To see her show up and try and have to get off the ice because she just couldn’t do it,” said Mantia, a fellow Floridian and Olympic skater, “it was tough for us to handle.”

“Can’t be going top speed on the oval and have a crazy little episode,” Bowe said.

Bowe returned home to Florida to decompress last January a few weeks after shutting down for the season, forced to miss World Cups and the World Championships. Her vestibular system — the part of the inner ear and brain that aids in controlling eye movement and balance — were “so out of whack” that she realized that she was not improving even resting at home.

The Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., later made arrangements for Bowe to go through a series of tests. She eventually moved to Colorado Springs in March and stayed there working on her concussion rehabilitation through June. Bowe saw a specialist once a week. Amid the monotony of the tests and pushing through the frustration of her slow recovery, those episodes of dread seeped in.

Feelings of anxiety slammed into her.

“All of a sudden, I’m kind of stuck in limbo where I kind of felt like what’s my identity if it’s not skating,” she recalled.

Then the tediousness of each day would overwhelm her.

“What am I working for? I’m working toward such basic things,” she remembered. “I just want to put my skates on and feel normal again.”

The post-concussion symptoms, or TBI (traumatic brain injury) as Bowe calls it, affected the regulatory systems in her body. Mantia watched Bowe inch toward normalcy on the ice while still having to keep her heart rate down to ensure another fainting episode wouldn’t arrive.

“I don’t know many athletes — and I’ve met a ton of athletes — that could do that and have the patience to go through that,” he said.

One day while in Colorado Springs, Bowe’s phone rang.

Hockey megastar Sidney Crosby was on the other line.

Some timely advice

Bowe knew Crosby probably was going to call. But it didn’t lessen the astonishment when he was on the line, waiting to speak to the speedskater for nearly an hour about the rigors of post-concussion symptoms. U.S. speedskating legend Dan Jansen helped facilitate the call, knowing Bowe needed more support, more input.

Bowe realized a few minutes into the conversation that while Crosby detailed his long history of concussions, the two had very similar symptoms. The Pittsburgh Penguins star has missed more than a season’s worth of games due to concussions sustained in his career.

“Listen to your body,” Crosby told Bowe. “That’s all we know is to push through this hidden injury. You really can’t see it.”

Bowe said the last big push was feeling comfortable enough to leave Colorado Springs to return home to Utah where she’s lived full-time since 2010. Bowe has set and broken several world records and earned over 40 World Cup medals since bursting onto the world’s skating scene in 2013. She owns four World Championship gold medals, too.

SOCHI, RUSSIA  - JANUARY 16:
Brittany Bowe, of Salt Lake City, gets ready to start the women's 1,500 meter at Adler Arena Skating Center during the 2014 Sochi Olympics Sunday February 16, 2014. Bowe finished in fourteenth place with a time of 1:58.31. 
(Photo by Chris Detrick/The Salt Lake Tribune)

Racing, Bowe said, is what makes everything in her life go.

Nothing is more therapeutic.

“I feel at home and comfortable when I’m on the ice,” she said.

She still clashes with onset anxiety that stems from the concussion. Bowe has been able to utilize her own trauma and help someone close. Olympic short-track medalist Katherine Reutter-Adamek suffered a concussion a few months after Bowe in 2016 and remained in close contact with Bowe throughout her recovery. Reutter-Adamek was sidelined for seven months with her own lingering symptoms.

“Having a teammate to be there to know there are other people going through what I’m going through, and that we’re having the same issues [helped],” she said. “If Brittany can be OK, I’ll be OK.”

Bowe won both B-Division races in the 500 meters and 1,000 meters in early November on the ice in Heerenveen. She missed last weekend’s World Cup stop due to an illness but is expected to compete on her home ice at the Oval this weekend. And like everyone else, she has the upcoming Olympics on her mind. Long-track team trials are scheduled for the first week of January in Milwaukee.

Then, hopefully, a poignant return to the Games.

“That expectation of leaving South Korea with a medal,” Bowe said, “is definitely there.”

2017 ISU LONG-TRACK WORLD CUP <br>When • Friday through Sunday <br>Where • Utah Olympic Oval, Kearns <br>Friday <br>12:30 p.m. • Women’s 500 meters <br>12:55 p.m. • Men’s 500 meters <br>1:30 p.m. • Women’s team pursuit <br>2:30 p.m. • Men’s team pursuit <br>Saturday <br>12:30 p.m. • Women’s second 500 meters <br>12:55 p.m. • Men’s second 500 meters <br>1:30 p.m. • Women’s 1,500 meters <br>2:15 p.m. • Men’s 1,500 meters <br>3:10 p.m. • Women’s mass start <br>3:30 p.m. • Men’s mass start <br>Sunday <br>12:30 p.m. • Women’s 1,000 meters <br>1 p.m. • Men’s 1,000 meters <br>1:45 p.m. • Women’s 3,000 meters <br>2:50 p.m. • Men’s 5,000 meters

BRITTANY BOWE <br>Age • 29 <br>Sport • Long-track speedskating <br>Hometown • Ocala, Fla. <br>A home out West • Moved to Utah to live and train full time in 2010 <br>Dominant on the ice • Made her Olympic debut at the 2014 Sochi Games. ... Nine-time World Championship medalist and four-time World Championship gold medalist. ... Has won 45 career World Cup medals. <br>The long road back • Off the ice nearly 18 months after suffering a concussion in July 2016. ... Returned to win bronze in a World Cup last December but once concussion symptoms returned, she had to end her season early and rehab. ... Spent three months this year at the Olympic Training Center working on concussion rehabilitation.

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