BERLIN – Two months after he finished last in the Calgary 1500-meter World Cup race, Joey Mantia shocked even himself with the first World Cup gold medal of his short long-track career.
The former inline skating star won the men’s 1500 meters with a time of 1 minute, 45.80 seconds in Berlin. He was in the third pair and had to watch the world’s best before he could celebrate his first World Cup win since switching from inline skating to long-track speedskating because it gave him a shot at the Olympics.
“Today’s race win felt incredible,” Mantia said. “For the first time since I switched over from inlines, I felt like I was in good control of my skates and able to execute a solid race plan exactly how I anticipated.”
The Florida native said the altitude – or lack thereof – may have helped him Friday.
“Being on sea-level ice has helped me get my technique back in check from the first two World Cups (which were altitude) considering the race speeds are significantly slower than at altitude, which also adds a bit of confidence leading into the games, seeing as Sochi is sea level," he said.
Poland’s Zbigniew was second with a time of 1:45.80, while Russia’s Denis Yuskov finished third in 1:46.14. Mantia’s U.S. teammate Shani Davis finished eighth 1:46.74.
He became one of the most successful inline skating athletes in the sport with three Pan American titles, 28 world titles and five world records. But he couldn’t go to the Olympics in inline skating, so in 2012, he moved to Utah to pursue long-track speedskating.
“Joey has come a long way in a few short seasons,” said coach Kip Carpenter. “His impressive result today is an example of all the hard work that many invested into him. Of course the most invested was Joey himself and a gold medal today is a reflection of that dedication.”
It’s been a slow transition for Mantia, but he hopes to build on this weekend’s success.
“Moving forward,” he said, “I'm going to keep pounding the technical process and do everything I can to prepare for trials and hopefully the Olympics.”