Karen Rosen

Meet the U.S. Olympic speed skating team that could win its most medals in 16 years

2022 U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Long Track Speedskating
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The 12-member U.S. long track speed skating team going to the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics has the potential to bring home its most medals since 2006.

Even one individual medal or two overall would be the best Team USA performance since 2010.

Call them the Determined Dozen.

“I’ve been around for a while, and it’s one of the strongest teams I’ve ever witnessed,” said Mia Manganello Kilburg, who made her second Olympic team.

Brittany Bowe and Joey Mantia will be three-time Olympians and both endured the disappointment of 2014 – with no medals – and 2018, when the women’s team pursuit squad captured the lone bronze.

Now Bowe, 33, is ranked No. 1 in the world in the 1000m, the event in which she is the reigning world champion and world record holder. She is also ranked No. 2 in the 1500. The one piece missing in Bowe’s distinguished career is an Olympic podium in an individual event after she contributed to the team pursuit bronze four years ago. Bowe placed fourth in the 1000 and fifth in both the 500 and 1500 in PyeongChang in the aftermath of a concussion that affected her training.

Mantia is No. 1 in the world in the 1500, a three-time world champion in mass start, and is also the leader of the world-record-holding men’s team pursuit squad. In addition, he’ll skate the 1000, the event in which he finished fourth in 2018. So, that makes Mantia, who will celebrate his 36th birthday during the Games, a legitimate medal hope in three events.

And then there’s Erin Jackson, who is ranked No. 1 in the world in the 500 as she heads to her second Games. She owes her spot on this Olympic team to Bowe, her good friend who generously gave up her own 500m berth. Jackson, 29, had a rare mid-race slip during last week’s U.S. Olympic Speed Skating Trials and finished behind Bowe and Kimi Goetz.

The U.S. only has two guaranteed quota spots in the event. However, Team USA could be awarded a third position later due to a reallocation from other nations, which would put Bowe in the field.

The wild card is Jordan Stolz, who at age 17 is the third-youngest athlete in history make the U.S. men’s long track team. He set track records at Milwaukee’s Pettit National Ice Center in both the 500 and 1000. If Stolz continues the improvement he has shown over the World Cup season – setting the American record in the 500 and the world junior records in the 500 and the 1000 – he could be in the hunt for a medal.

“It’s no secret that a few of us have had a ton of success on the World Cup and world level and have just fallen short at the Games,” said Bowe. “And we’re well aware of that. Having success early (on the World Cup circuit) has definitely helped our confidence and momentum, and to have some newcomers like Erin and Jordan and then the team pursuit team has just raised the excitement level.”

Bowe, Mantia and Jackson are all former inline skaters from Ocala, Florida, who parlayed their astounding success on wheels into new careers on blades.

Bowe has won 11 medals at the World Single Distances Championships from 2013 through 2021, including four golds. She is the reigning champion in the 1000, winning three golds in that event and also won the 1500 in 2015. In addition, she has a staggering 75 World Cup medals, including 33 golds, 25 silvers and 17 bronzes (36 medals in the 1000, 24 in the 1500, 14 in the 500 and one in team pursuit).

Mantia has won three world championship golds in mass start as well as a bronze in the 1500 at the 2020 World Championships in Salt Lake City. He has won 22 World Cup medals, including eight golds, five of those in the 1500. Mantia won 14 medals in the 1500, five in mass start, one in team pursuit and two in team sprint, which is not an Olympic event.

He has eliminated all distractions in what he said will be his last Olympic campaign. “It’s really nice to have the entire team on the men and women’s side really step up and be in contention across the board,” Mantia said.

In addition to Bowe and Jackson on the women’s team, Goetz, a first-time Olympian after missing out on the 2018 Games as a short-track competitor, will race the 500 and 1000 while Manganello Kilburg, 32, will race the 1500 and mass start and could possibly also contest the 3000 since she is the first reserve. Giorgia Birkeland, another Olympic rookie at age 19, will fill the other mass start position.

Mantia and Stolz will be joined on the men’s team by now three-time Olympian Emery Lehman, 25, in the 1500 and team pursuit and new Olympians Ethan Cepuran, 21, in the 5000 and team pursuit; Austin Kleba, 22, in the 500; Casey Dawson, 21, in the 5000 and team pursuit and Ian Quinn, 28, in mass start.

In 2014, Lehman became the youngest man to compete for Team USA in long track speed skating at age 17 years, 240 days – surpassing by two days the legendary Eric Heiden, who was making his first Olympic appearance in 1976. Heiden, of course, went on to sweep the five men’s gold medals in 1980.

Stolz will be 17 years and 267 days when he goes to the starting line for the 500 on Feb. 12. He is the American record holder in that event, but thinks his best chance is in the 1000, where he hopes to break into the top five. That would be a higher finish than either Heiden or Lehman at that age.

In 2010, Team USA won four medals – one gold, two silvers and a bronze – all on the men’s side (Shani Davis, Chad Hedrick and team pursuit).

Four years earlier, in Torino, the men’s team also won all of the U.S. medals, finishing with seven overall and tying the Netherlands with three golds by Joey Cheek, Davis and Hedrick.

That means this could be the most balanced U.S. effort in 20 years, when the Americans won eight medals in Salt Lake City in 2002, tying the Netherlands and Germany. All three nations had three golds. The men won two gold – Casey FitzRandolph in the 500 and Derek Parra in the 1500, one silver (Parra in the 5000) and two bronze medals (Kip Carpenter in the 500 and Cheek in the 1000) while Chris Witty won a gold in the women’s 1000 and Jennifer Rodriguez captured bronze medals in the 1000 and 1500.

If Jackson, who was the first Black woman to make a U.S. Olympic long track team in 2018, wins the 500m gold, she would be the first American woman to reach the top of the podium in that event since Bonnie Blair won three straight from 1988-1994.

Team USA has not medaled in the men’s 500 since Cheek’s gold in 2006. In the 1000, the last medals were won by Davis (gold) and Hedrick (bronze) in 2010, while Davis’ silver in the 1500 in Vancouver was the last men’s medal in that event.

In team pursuit, the Americans have pioneered a technique in which Mantia leads the way for the entire race instead of the three skaters switching off. This has saved time and energy.

In a bit of a twist, after making the podium in 2018, the U.S. women will not compete in team pursuit for the first time since the event was added to the Olympic program in 2006.

Bowe said that while “racking up medals” this World Cup season has brought Team USA a lot of “camaraderie, fun and excitement,” the skaters will all try to stay safe as they prepare for Beijing.

“With me, Kimi and Erin in the top 10, going for medals every single time we get on the ice has been really fun,” Bowe said. “Outside of the rink, as much as we love each other, we still keep to ourselves a little bit.”

She said just going to hang out at a teammate’s house could put them in jeopardy of being a close contact or testing positive for Covid-19. “It’s like you can’t trust anybody as cautious as everyone’s been at this time,” Bowe said. “It’s been weird, but it’s been awesome and really fun to cheer each other on.”

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

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Erin Jackson will go for gold at Olympics after friend Brittany Bowe gives up 500m spot


That’s what friends are for.

Erin Jackson is going to the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, thanks to a generous gesture by her good friend Brittany Bowe.

On Sunday, Bowe, who qualified for three events at the U.S. Olympic Speed Skating Trials, gave her spot in the 500m to Jackson, the No. 1-ranked skater in the event.

This will be the third Olympics for Bowe and the second for Jackson, who in 2018 became the first Black woman to make the U.S. Olympic long track speed skating team after just four months of serious on-ice training.

“It’s the right thing to do,” Bowe told NBCSports.com. “There’s not a doubt in my mind that she wouldn’t do the same thing for me.”

Jackson had an unfortunate bobble in the race Friday, watching her hopes for an Olympic gold medal slip away when she finished third behind Bowe and Kimi Goetz. Only two U.S. women are guaranteed Olympic berths, although a third spot is a possibility due to reallocation from other nations later.

“She has earned her spot; she deserves it,” said Bowe, who is ranked No. 1 in the world in the 1000 and is also an Olympic medal threat in the 1500.

The 500 was not Bowe’s top priority this season, although she still holds out hope that the U.S. will receive that third quota spot. “I would love to race in it,” she said. “Hopefully all three of us will.”

However, Bowe, 33, knew that if Jackson didn’t get on the team, she wouldn’t be eligible if that spot eventually came up.

On Saturday night, Bowe received a text from US Speedskating reminding her of the champagne celebration Sunday for the Olympic team at the Pettit National Ice Center in Milwaukee. “I couldn’t have had a celebratory time without Erin,” Bowe told reporters.

She called Jackson on Sunday morning to give her the good news before she informed US Speedskating of her decision.

That gave Jackson peace of mind. The 29-year-old, who won four of the eight 500m races on the World Cup circuit last fall, didn’t sleep at all after her mistake. “I couldn’t turn my brain off,” said Jackson. “It’s been really stressful, just kind of being in limbo for so long.”

Although she took full responsibility for her slip on the ice, Jackson said the disappointment of not skating a good race was compounded by “potentially missing out on the Olympics after a season I’ve been really proud of. It was really devastating.”

And then she got the call from Bowe. They go way back, meeting when Jackson was 10 and joined an inline skating club in Ocala, Florida. The skaters still laugh about a photo showing Jackson standing between Bowe and three-time Olympian Joey Mantia and barely coming up to their chests.

Jackson said she felt “really overwhelming emotions.”

ON HER TURF: Erin Jackson will compete in Beijing

“Just for her to do something like this for me, it’s amazing,” she said. “I’m just incredibly grateful. I’m really humbled, and she’s just an amazing person.”

Actually, the idea of relinquishing her spot had been percolating in Bowe’s mind ever since Jackson was denied a re-skate following her 500m faux pas.

“In my heart there was never a question that I would do whatever it took if it came down to me to get Erin to skate the Olympics,” Bowe said.

She said she even told Jackson that before they left the building on Friday night, and she gave her a hug.

“I had to selfishly refocus on my 1500m, so we didn’t talk at all yesterday,” Bowe said. “I can’t even imagine how stressed she’s been the past few days.”

Feeling her friend’s heartbreak, Bowe knew she had to act. “It’s just the spirit of the Olympics and being a great teammate,” Bowe said, “and yes, it’s bigger than just me. It’s Team USA. Erin has a shot to bring home a medal, hopefully a gold medal, and it’s my honor to give her that opportunity.”

Mia Manganello Kilburg, who made the Olympic team in the 1500m and mass start, was Bowe’s teammate in 2018 when they won an Olympic bronze medal in team pursuit. That was the only Team USA long track medal in the past two Olympic Games.

“It’s just honorable,” Manganello Kilburg said of Bowe. “It’s something that I assumed somebody would do, and she’s an amazing person, an amazing teammate.”

And now through that act of sportsmanship, Jackson has been given an opportunity that she thought was lost. That “makes it 10 times more awesome going into Beijing,” she said.

Jackson will strive to win the first gold medal in the 500 for Team USA since Bonnie Blair won three straight in 1988, 1992 and 1994. She has a much better chance to get it than Bowe, whose best World Cup finish in the event this season is eighth.

“Going into it, no matter what, I’ve got my eyes on the top spot,” Jackson said, “but this just makes it so much sweeter that I was kind of given this gift from a very close friend of mine. It would be awesome for both of us to be able to stand at the top of the podium in our races and share that moment.”

They already share one of the feel-good moments in the run-up to the embattled Beijing Games.

On Sunday, the trials concluded with the men’s and women’s mass start, the chaotic pack-style races. Two Olympic qualifiers were held in late October, with the trials the final event to determine one guaranteed spot in the men’s and women’s events. Coaches also had the discretion to pick the second male and female athletes.

Ian Quinn pulled away to win the men’s race and secure his Olympic berth with 150 overall points. Quinn is a former short track speed skater and put that experience to his advantage in the 16-lap race.

“I use gut instinct,” Quinn said. “If you try to plan too much you’ll end up overthinking it.”

Mantia, the three-time world champion in mass start, was sixth and became the discretionary pick by the U.S. coaches. He accumulated 146 points for second overall.

Giorgia Birkeland won the women’s race, followed by Manganello Kilburg, who nabbed the guaranteed berth with 174 points.

“She is a huge star to come,” Manganello Kilburg said of the 19-year-old Birkeland, who was the discretionary pick, sitting fourth in the mass start series.

This U.S. team is composed of seven men and five women. The others added to the team Sunday were Austin Kleba in the men’s 500 and 5000m skater Casey Dawson, who will also join Mantia, Emery Lehman and Ethan Cepuran in team pursuit. The U.S. recently set the world record in that event.

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

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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 NBCSports.com.

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