What to Know
- The fifth-place finish earlier this month clinched Mantia's spot in the mass start at the Winter Games
- Mantia, 31, was born in Ocala and started in inline skating, switching to ice in 2010
All Joey Mantia needed to do to qualify for the mass start in the Winter Olympics was to finish at the U.S. Speedskating trials.
He took it a little easy to begin the race before adrenaline kicked in.
The fifth-place finish earlier this month clinched Mantia's spot in the mass start at the Winter Games, where the reigning world champion has bigger goals in mind.
"I really wanted to let those guys race it out and then I got a little hungry with a half-lap to go. I thought, 'Maybe I can win this,'" Mantia said.
Brian Hansen took the event with a time of 7 minutes, 48.24 seconds on the final day of the trials. Mantia and Hansen finished 1-2 in the overall rankings to secure the United States' two entries in the mass start, which is debuting this year as an Olympic medal event.
"I think we can put together a solid plan. I think he's on board for working for me, as the designated winner for the Games, but we've got to see how it plays out and who's feeling the best when we get there," Mantia said. "But I'm very confident having a strong teammate like Hansen."
The mass start is speedskating's version of a NASCAR race on ice. Foregoing the traditional time-trial format, all entries were on the oval at the same time for the 16-lap, 6,400-meter free-for-all that included four sprint laps.
"You never know what's going to happen in that race," Hansen said.
Asked if the goal was to help Mantia at the Olympics, Hansen added "We've got three weeks. I don't know what exactly the strategy is going to be yet."
Mantia, 31, was born in Ocala and started in inline skating, switching to ice in 2010. The PyeongChang Olympics are the second he'll be competing in, after finishing 15th in the 1000m, 22nd in the 1500m and 7th in the team pursuit in Sochi.
Mantia and Hansen had already qualified in other events. U.S. Speedskating added Emery Lehman as a specialist in team pursuit to complete the seven-member men's squad.
Now it's on to Pyeongchang, South Korea, where the United States hopes to erase the painful memories of getting shutout four years ago in Sochi. It was the first time that Americans failed to earn a medal in speedskating since 1984.