Brittany Bowe started the abbreviated international speed skating season with a significant win in the 1500m at the first of two World Cups in Heerenveen, Netherlands. The consecutive World Cups are being held in a bubble atmosphere at the Thialf venue leading up to the World Single Distances Championships in mid-February.

Bowe, whose best distance is the 1000m, last won a 1500m World Cup race on Feb. 3, 2019. She took two bronze medals in the 2019-20 season. This is her eighth career World Cup win in the 1500m and 27th overall.

“I just wasn’t feeling strong in that race,” Bowe told NBCSports.com of her 1500m performance last season. “I’m really, really focused on getting back to that competitive edge in the 1500m.”

The 32-year-old called this victory a surprise.

Her time of 1:53.881 was 0.69 of a second faster than the Netherlands’ Ireen Wüst, the most decorated active Winter Olympian with 11 medals. Antoinette de Jong, also of the Netherlands, was third in 1:54.710.

Wüst won the 1500m Olympic gold medal in 2010 and 2018, and has five world titles at that distance.

“She’s the queen of the 1500 and I’m always coming after her,” Bowe told Dutch broadcaster NOS. “I have nothing but respect for her. She’s one of the best, if not the best, female skaters of all time, so to be able to compete against her and the rest of the world is an honor and to be able to come out No. 1 today is awesome.”

Dutch skaters won every other race contested Saturday, including a sweep in the men’s 1500m, led by 2019 world champion Thomas Krol in 1:43.243.

Femke Kok won the women’s 500m in 37.089 seconds for her first World Cup win and a personal best; Bowe was 14th in that event. Dai Dai Ntab took the men’s 500m in 34.550 seconds.

Irene Schouten and Arjan Stroetinga claimed the mass start wins.

Competition concludes Sunday with another set of 500m races, the women’s 3000m and men’s 5000m, plus the men’s and women’s 1000m. Bowe won three of five 1000m World Cups last season and was second in another.

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