Maame Biney on Brittany Bowe Giving Up Olympic Spot to Erin Jackson: 'Role Models in Speed Skating'

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Maame Biney
Maame Biney

Harry How/Getty Images

In the speed skating community, support and camaraderie are paramount.

The sport itself is largely an individual's competition (with the exception of relays) but the connections between athletes are strong. There was no better example of these friendships than at the Olympic trials earlier this month when U.S. long track speed skater Brittany Bowe offered to give her spot in the women's 500m to her friend Erin Jackson, who had finished third after slipping in her race and was ruled out of the Games.

Bowe, 33, also qualified for the 1000m and 1500m races at the Beijing Winter Games.

Jackson, who was the first Black woman to make a U.S. Olympic long track team in 2018, is currently the No. 1 ranked skater in the 500m race and the gold medal favorite. If Jackson, 29, wins the gold, she would be the first American woman to do so in the 500m event since Bonnie Blair won three straight from 1988-1994.

Short track speed skater Maame Biney, also a top contender in the 500m race, tells PEOPLE that both Bowe and Jackson are "role models" in speed skating.

Erin Jackson and Brittany Bowe
Erin Jackson and Brittany Bowe

Stacy Revere/Getty

"When Erin, unfortunately, slipped — because obviously she was gonna win and everyone knew that. When she slipped, it was just like, 'Oh my gosh, what's gonna happen?' But I had a feeling that Brittany was going to be able to give up her spot," Biney recalls.

"I felt like she was going to do that because that's just who she is. She's going to do what's best for the team and not necessarily what's best for her. I think, not like speaking for her in any capacity, but the person and the athlete that she is, is: if my teammate wins, then we all win," Biney continues.

"Having Brittany and Erin as role models in the sport of speed skating is amazing just because I'm literally seeing two queens in front of me being so great," she says. "I'm so excited to be able to go to the Games with them and just cheer them on. Just be like, 'Yes, I know those girls! They skate with me, I can't believe we're in the same vicinity.' It's great."

RELATED: Speed Skater Brittany Bowe Gives Up Winter Olympics Spot to Teammate Who Slipped in 500m Race

In December, Biney was named as one of the seven short track skaters who will compete for Team USA in Beijing. (Biney is the only returning member.)

"I was super, super happy that I got it," she says, recalling the moment she clinched her spot on the team. "Just because, at that moment, I wanted to prove to myself that I could win, at least like one distance and if it had to be a distance, it had to be the [500m]. I was just super happy about that."

Biney, who competed at the 2018 PyeongChang Games, says her goal for her second time at the Olympics is not exactly competition-related.

"I just want to have fun, I want to experience and relish the moments that I get to have with my teammates, and also at the Olympics in general. I know that the Olympics is a very special moment and a very special thing to be a part of. I just want to be able to relish in that and not overthink anything. And just have fun," she says.

Especially with the support around her, Biney says she's confident she'll achieve that.

"I feel pretty good. I feel really light, not like a lot of weight on my shoulders which is super nice," she notes. "I know that I have a lot of people around me who care for me and want me to do the best that I can and who love me for who I am. I feel the love so I feel very, very happy about that."

To learn more about all the Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls, visit TeamUSA.org. Watch the Winter Olympics, beginning Feb 3, and the Paralympics, beginning March 4, on NBC.

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