Joey Mantia, top in the world, sets 1500m track record to make third Olympic team


If this is what Joey Mantia and Brittany Bowe can do while training through the U.S. Olympic Speed Skating Trials, they’ve set the bar high for Beijing.

Mantia just wanted to be fast enough in the 1500m to make his third straight Olympic team in the event Saturday and chase a medal at the Games.

That’s something that has eluded Mantia in a speed skating career that has reached nearly every other peak.

It turns out Mantia checked off another box, too. The 35-year-old won the race and got his first track record. Mantia clocked 1:44.01 to shatter the record of 1:44.47 set by Olympic bronze medalist Chad Hedrick in October 2009 at the Pettit National Ice Center in Milwaukee.

“It’s a nice solidification and builds a lot of confidence that you’re doing the right thing,” said Mantia, who was fourth in the 1000m at the 2018 Olympics and eighth in the 1500m, “especially when you think it didn’t go 100 percent according to plan.”

Bowe won her third event at this Olympic Trials, capturing the women’s 1500m in 1:55.81. Although she wasn’t pleased with the time, she was well ahead of runner-up Mia Manganello Kilburg, who clinched her berth at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics in 1:57.29.

Manganello Kilburg won the 3000 on Wednesday, but is not assured of an Olympic berth in that event. A 2018 Olympic bronze medalist in team pursuit, she is favored to win the mass start on Sunday.

There was just as much drama off the ice.

Bowe and Kimi Goetz, who was third in the 1500, opened the door to be joined in Beijing by teammate Erin Jackson. With a literal stroke of bad luck, Jackson slipped in the 500 on Friday and missed qualifying for the Games in an event in which she leads the world and won four of eight World Cup races.

Bowe and Goetz went 1-2 in both the 500 and 1000 and one could relinquish her spot in the 500 to allow Jackson to make the five-woman team. An international reallocation could produce a third berth, but it is not guaranteed.


“I’m sure there will be a discussion,” Bowe said. “It’s hard to say. In my heart, I thought Kimi and I were going for that second-place spot. Hopefully we get three spots when we get to the Olympics, but as of now, it seems that the only way Erin will get to compete in the Olympics is if one of us gives up that spot.

“I’m hopeful that internally we can figure that out and all of three of us are in Beijing.”

Bowe has known Jackson since they were inline skaters in Ocala, Florida. While Jackson raced in the 1500, she finished sixth in an event she rarely contests, so her fate is in the hands of her two friends.

And they were well aware of that.

“As competitors, once we get to the line, it’s on us to let everything go,” Bowe said. “I’m focused on the task at hand and nothing else is in my mind, but the past 24 hours have been an emotional roller coaster. Erin is one of my great friends, great teammates and the No. 1-ranked 500m girl in the world. So I’d be lying if I said that hasn’t taken a a bit of an emotional toll on me.”

Goetz added, “We’re friends first, teammates second and competitors third. We’ve talked about it a little bit, but Brittany and I both told her we need to get through today and see how today goes before we make any tough decisions.”

Manganello Kilburg sympathized with their plight. “I can’t imagine being in the position of the three of them,” she said. “Erin deserves support and deserves protection for her amazing results. I think the best should race at the Olympics. I can’t speak for anybody in that position, but I can guarantee it probably won’t happen again.”

Because of the rules, Jackson was not allowed a re-skate. Had she fallen, she would have been awarded a second chance.

Goetz said all three skaters had been training to race the 500 all year, but misinterpreted the rules that determined how they could qualify for the Olympics. Each ranks among the fastest in the world. Yet because of a groin injury Bowe suffered during the World Cup season, she didn’t amass enough points to get the U.S. an automatic third qualification spot.

“It just feels sad,” Goetz said. “It’s sad for Erin, it’s sad for Britt or I if we decide to give up the spot. It’s sad for my teammates that didn’t make it. It’s not the exciting feeling that I thought I’d have, or that I had the first day.”

On the men’s side, however, there was still excitement as Emery Lehman made his third straight Olympic team. He finished second in the men’s 1500m with a time of 1:45.10.

Lehman, 25, was just 17 when he made his first Olympic team in 2014.

“I probably didn’t even know what I was doing,” he said. “In 2018, I was coming back from having mono, so I was really lucky to be there. Now I feel like I’m going back as a competitor, not only in team pursuit but the 1500.”

Mantia, Lehman, Ethan Cepuran, who won the 5000, and Casey Dawson are expected to be named to the U.S. squad for team pursuit. Team USA holds the world record in the event.

Lehman said this 1500 was the closest he’s been to Mantia all season. His best World Cup finish was fourth in Calgary and he earned the second quota spot for the United States in the event. “Coming here and defending it is a really good feeling,” he said.

Mantia will be a busy man in Beijing. He qualified for the seven-man Olympic team in the 1000, finishing second in that event on Friday night. In addition, Mantia is the favorite in mass start, the event which will close the Olympic trials on Sunday.

Mantia is ranked No. 1 in the world in the 1500 and captured World Cup wins in Salt Lake City and Calgary in December in what’s known as the “King’s Distance.” In the other two World Cups, he won a silver and a bronze.

After calling his 1000m race “terrible” despite placing second, Mantia said he was “ecstatic” with his 1500 even though he usually has a little more gas at the end. He blamed his intense training regimen the last couple of weeks.

But Mantia told the USA television broadcast that “in my heart, I truly believe if you’re awesome right now, you’re not going to be at the Games.”

Mantia said he thinks he can go into the low 1:43s in Beijing, which is at sea level. His personal best is 1:41.15 at altitude in Salt Lake City a month ago.

However, Mantia was able to find the “sweet spot” amid his heavy training to perform well in his signature race at the trials. Mantia said that after Jordan Stolz set track records in the 500 and 1000, he couldn’t let the 17-year-old “have all the fun.”

Stolz did not compete in the 1500. “I called him a chicken today because he didn’t skate,” Mantia said. “It’s been fun watching him crush through the 500 and the 1000. In my playground, he would have struggled a little bit, maybe.”

Mantia, who set a boatload of records as one of the world’s best inline skaters, said of his first track record on the ice, “It’s nice to have in your back pocket. It says nobody has skated that fast before at that track. I felt like I’ve been good enough to get them before, but with the level being where it is in the last six or seven years in long track speed skating it’s just been tougher and tougher to try to snag those records.”

The Ocala native said that it was especially meaningful to break a record held by Hedrick, “a guy I looked up to when I was a kid skating in inline. I’m excited about what’s to come in the future in the next 30 days.”

However, Mantia said he still maintains that the Olympic Trials should have been cancelled due to the rise in Covid-19 cases. “I think it was a bad move that we skated here and had this event,” he said. “I think it was an unnecessary risk.”

But Mantia added, “Everybody’s masked up. We’re doing the best we can dealing with this situation and hopefully we make it out of this and back home and to the Games without any issues.”

Karen Rosen, who has covered every summer and winter Olympics since 1992, is a special contributor to

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Helen Maroulis stars in wrestling documentary, with help from Chris Pratt

Helen Maroulis, Chris Pratt

One of the remarkable recent Olympic comeback stories is the subject of a film that will be shown nationwide in theaters for one day only on Thursday.

“Helen | Believe” is a documentary about Helen Maroulis, the first U.S. Olympic women’s wrestling champion. Showing details are here.

After taking gold at the 2016 Rio Games, Maroulis briefly retired in 2019 during a two-year stretch in which she dealt with concussions and post-traumatic stress disorder. The film focuses on that period and her successful bid to return and qualify for the Tokyo Games, where she took bronze.

In a poignant moment in the film, Maroulis described her “rock bottom” — being hospitalized for suicidal ideations.

In an interview, Maroulis said she was first approached about the project in 2018, the same year she had her first life-changing concussion that January. A wrestling partner’s mother was connected to director Dylan Mulick.

Maroulis agreed to the film in part to help spread mental health awareness in sports. Later, she cried while watching the 2020 HBO film, “The Weight of Gold,” on the mental health challenges that other Olympians faced, because it resonated with her so much.

“When you’re going through something, it sometimes gives you an anchor of hope to know that someone’s been through it before, and they’ve overcome it,” she said.

Maroulis’ comeback story hit a crossroads at the Olympic trials in April 2021, where the winner of a best-of-three finals series in each weight class made Team USA.

Maroulis won the opening match against Jenna Burkert, but then lost the second match. Statistically, a wrestler who loses the second match in a best-of-three series usually loses the third. But Maroulis pinned Burkert just 22 seconds into the rubber match to clinch the Olympic spot.

Shen then revealed that she tore an MCL two weeks earlier.

“They told me I would have to be in a brace for six weeks,” she said then. “I said, ‘I don’t have that. I have two and a half.’”

Maroulis said she later asked the director what would have happened if she didn’t make the team for Tokyo. She was told the film still have been done.

“He had mentioned this isn’t about a sports story or sports comeback story,” Maroulis said. “This is about a human story. And we’re using wrestling as the vehicle to tell this story of overcoming and healing and rediscovering oneself.”

Maroulis said she was told that, during filming, the project was pitched to the production company of actor Chris Pratt, who wrestled in high school in Washington. Pratt signed on as a producer.

“Wrestling has made an impact on his life, and so he wants to support these kinds of stories,” said Maroulis, who appeared at last month’s Santa Barbara Film Festival with Pratt.

Pratt said he knew about Maroulis before learning about the film, which he said “needed a little help to get it over the finish line,” according to a public relations company promoting the film.

The film also highlights the rest of the six-woman U.S. Olympic wrestling team in Tokyo. Four of the six won a medal, including Tamyra Mensah-Stock‘s gold.

“I was excited to be part of, not just (Maroulis’) incredible story, but also helping to further advance wrestling and, in particular, female wrestling,” Pratt said, according to responses provided by the PR company from submitted questions. “To me, the most compelling part of Helen’s story is the example of what life looks like after a person wins a gold medal. The inevitable comedown, the trauma around her injuries, the PTSD, the drive to continue that is what makes her who she is.”

Maroulis, who now trains in Arizona, hopes to qualify for this year’s world championships and next year’s Olympics.

“I try to treat every Games as my last,” she said. “Now I’m leaning toward being done [after 2024], but never say never.”

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IOC recommends how Russia, Belarus athletes can return as neutrals

Thomas Bach

The IOC updated its recommendations to international sports federations regarding Russian and Belarusian athletes, advising that they can return to competitions outside of the Olympics as neutral athletes in individual events and only if they do not actively support the war in Ukraine. Now, it’s up to those federations to decide if and how they will reinstate the athletes as 2024 Olympic qualifying heats up.

The IOC has not made a decision on the participation of Russian or Belarusian athletes for the Paris Games and will do so “at the appropriate time,” IOC President Thomas Bach said Tuesday.

Most international sports federations for Olympic sports banned Russian and Belarusian athletes last year following IOC recommendations to do so after the invasion of Ukraine.

Bach was asked Tuesday what has changed in the last 13 months that led to the IOC updating its recommendations.

He reiterated previous comments that, after the invasion and before the initial February 2022 recommendations, some governments refused to issue visas for Russians and Belarusians to compete, and other governments threatened withdrawing funding from athletes who competed against Russians and Belarusians. He also said the safety of Russians and Belarusians at competitions was at risk at the time.

Bach said that Russians and Belarusians have been competing in sports including tennis, the NHL and soccer (while not representing their countries) and that “it’s already working.”

“The question, which has been discussed in many of these consultations, is why should what is possible in all these sports not be possible in swimming, table tennis, wrestling or any other sport?” Bach said.

Bach then read a section of remarks that a United Nations cultural rights appointee made last week.

“We have to start from agreeing that these states [Russia and Belarus] are going to be excluded,” Bach read, in part. “The issue is what happens with individuals. … The blanket prohibition of Russian and Belarusian athletes and artists cannot continue. It is a flagrant violation of human rights. The idea is not that we are going to recognize human rights to people who are like us and with whom we agree on their actions and on their behavior. The idea is that anyone has the right not to be discriminated on the basis of their passport.”

The IOC’s Tuesday recommendations included not allowing “teams of athletes” from Russia and Belarus to return.

If Russia continues to be excluded from team sports and team events, it could further impact 2024 Olympic qualification.

The international basketball federation (FIBA) recently set an April 28 deadline to decide whether to allow Russia to compete in an Olympic men’s qualifying tournament. For women’s basketball, the draw for a European Olympic qualifying tournament has already been made without Russia.

In gymnastics, the ban has already extended long enough that, under current rules, Russian gymnasts cannot qualify for men’s and women’s team events at the Paris Games, but can still qualify for individual events if the ban is lifted.

Gymnasts from Russia swept the men’s and women’s team titles in Tokyo, where Russians in all sports competed for the Russian Olympic Committee rather than for Russia due to punishment for the nation’s doping violations. There were no Russian flags or anthems, conditions that the IOC also recommends for any return from the current ban for the war in Ukraine.

Seb Coe, the president of World Athletics, said last week that Russian and Belarusian athletes remain banned from track and field for the “foreseeable future.”

World Aquatics, the international governing body for swimming, diving and water polo, said after the IOC’s updated recommendations that it will continue to “consider developments impacting the situation” of Russian and Belarusian athletes and that “further updates will be provided when appropriate.”

The IOC’s sanctions against Russia and Belarus and their governments remain in place, including disallowing international competitions to be held in those countries.

On Monday, Ukraine’s sports minister said in a statement that Ukraine “strongly urges” that Russian and Belarusian athletes remain banned.

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