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Brittany Bowe takes crazy journey to Team USA flagbearer role

Brittany Bowe was one of two flagbearers for Team USA. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Brittany Bowe wasn’t supposed to be the Olympic flagbearer for Team USA, just like she wasn’t supposed to compete in the 500m speed skate.

But when bobsledder Elana Meyers Taylor tested positive for COVID-19 and had to enter isolation, Bowe was selected to be one of two U.S. flagbearers for Friday’s opening ceremony.

“It’s a shame that Elana can’t do it because we all felt she was the deserving front-runner to have that honor,” U.S. speedskating coach Ryan Shimabukuro told the AP. “But Brittany is obviously taking that responsibility seriously and she’s going to lead that delegation like the champion she is. I think there’s no better runner-up than Brittany to do that.”

The six-time world champion and 2018 Winter Games bronze medalist made headlines when she proved to be the ultimate teammate last month. While she finished first in the 500 at U.S. trials, she later gave up her Olympic spot to teammate Erin Jackson. Jackson, who is currently the world No. 1 in the event, slipped in her heat and finished third.

At the time, there were only two guaranteed spots in the event. Bowe withdrew to ensure Jackson’s spot. But after the International Skating Union issued its final allotments, the U.S. was able to pick up a third skater for the event which means that Bowe will still compete in the event alongside Jackson and Kimi Goetz.

“All things considered, to give up an opportunity for a medal is insane,” fellow skater Joey Mantia said. ”What she did was absolutely crazy. I think it’s an amazing gesture that she was able to bring herself to do, and not knowing for sure if she was going to get that spot or not because our criteria for how we get spots is a little open-ended up until the last minute.”

But that act of sacrifice, to Mantia, is what makes Bowe the best candidate to carry the U.S. flag.

“She definitely deserves it,” Mantia said. “We were pushing hard for her, so it was really nice to see that.”