At 35, Joey Mantia claims elusive Olympic speed skating medal


Joey Mantia poses for a portrait during the Team USA Media Summit on September 27, 2017 in Park City, Utah.

Joey Mantia leaves nothing to chance.

Almost as soon as he was able to get off his skates last season, he sat down at his computer and changed his entire training schedule.

Mantia even bought her own starter pistol to better simulate racing conditions.

Everything seems to be kicking in, with Mantia on track to make his third consecutive Olympic team and hopefully win Team USA’s first male speed skater medal since 2010. He’s only got to. only one regret.

“I was like, ‘I don’t know why I didn’t do it sooner,” said Mantia.

Turning 36 on February 7, the day before the men’s 1,500-meter race at the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games, Mantia is a medal hopeful in the event as well as in the mass start and team pursuit. He also expects to compete in the 1000, the event in which he placed fourth at PyeongChang 2018, a result that is both disappointing and motivating.

Mantia said he and US long track speed skating coach Ryan Shimabukuro had a three-year plan for these Olympics, but Mantia changed it to reflect what he was thinking and feeling.

“I covered all the bases I thought I would miss from the previous two seasons,” he said. “Fortunately, when I handed this program over to my coach, he looked at it and said, ‘I agree with everything in there. “

At the end of the cropped 2020-21 season – held entirely in a bubble in the Netherlands – Mantia became the first skater to win three mass start gold medals at the world single distance championships. He also won in 2017 and 2019.

While Mantia said he’s still confident his best bet for an Olympic medal is the mass start, “the only thing that’s changing now is that I think my chances are still as good in the 1500 and the team pursuit.

Mantia won both of those events at last weekend’s World Cup at the Utah Olympic Oval in Kearns, Utah. The site of the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics is also the ice rink for the Ocala, Florida native, who was a 28-time roller skating world champion before switching to speed skating more than a decade ago.

On December 4, Mantia won the 1500 for his fourth world cup gold in that event, albeit the first since 2016. He became the oldest man to win a world cup skating race. distance and the oldest American to win a speed skating world cup. an event.

Although he feels nervous and a little nauseous before the race – “Maybe I drank a little too much coffee that morning,” he said – Mantia clocked a personal best of 1 minute , 41.15 seconds. He missed the world record by 0.98 and Shani Davis’ 2011 US record by just 11.1.

“I knew I wasn’t feeling good,” Mantia said, “But there’s no point focusing on the negatives at this particular point. I just relied on my training because there was tons of days in training where I didn’t feel good, and I still succeeded.

After finishing third, second and first in the World Cup this season in the 1500, Mantia is ranked second in the world behind Zhongyan Ning of China.

The next World Cup will be held this weekend in Calgary, which also has fast ice at high altitudes, so Mantia could have another chance to break records. It will depend on the weather, he said, and “if the air pressure is low”.

“I’m not particularly trying to be amazing in Calgary,” said Mantia. “It’s something that I sort of practice. Salt Lake was my sweet spot for where I really wanted to perform well.

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