This year the world championships just seem different. It does not seem like worlds at all actually as there are no crowds like we are used to. In fact, there seems to be no spectators in the stands that are not somehow connected to the competitors. There are also no venders selling food on the outskirts of the arena like there usually are. But all that aside, this is the world championships and today there were many reasons for the USA to cry and be overjoyed just as there always is in this roller coaster we call speed skating.
Emotions fluctuated today as the world team saw many upsets, bad luck and skaters taking on new challenges but it all ended with a Gold medal and a new world record set by Joey Mantia in the 300 meter time trial. Joey’s time was 24.25. The last skater to race the event was Pedro Causil from Colombia. Trying to beat Joey’s time he finished just short with a time of 24.265.
As stated earlier there were many upsets. USA’s Sara Sayasane did not make it out of her heat. Suffering from a back injury that she was nursing during residency she finished in 15th place. The team also saw no junior men or senior women move on to the final in the 300 meter time trial. Jonathan Blair gave it his best try as did Michael Ringer who made his world’s debut in 14th place overall.
The finals for the first of the long races and the 300 meter time trial was held tonight and this is where the roller coaster ride was at its peak. The junior ladies 15,000 meter elimination race was first up with Sophie Webb and Megan Gillis representing the USA. Both skaters were eliminated but the real story occurred afterward. A skater from Chinese Taipei, who is extremely fast, had been eliminated. She was asked by the officials to clear the track but ignored the call. She moved to the front of the other four remaining girls (one of them being her teammate) and sprinted; taking out the legs of those following behind. The judges asked her to leave the track four times in all before she complied. Unfortunately the damage for the other three skaters had been done. The race would finish up Colombia, Chinese Taipei followed by Korea.
There are times at worlds when you wonder if anything can go right and then there are times when you jump for joy and thank God for the amazing things that he does. Justin Mannon, who is making his second appearance at worlds, would have his medal dreams realized. There was a crash in this race taking out a few skaters. The judges tried to stop the race but the skaters did not comply and kept going. Giving a great performance along with Mario Valencia the team worked hard to stay together throughout the race. Mario would hang on for most of the race before being eliminated. Justin then went on to battle it out in the final five. He would find himself sprinting for placement with the others and finishing up with a bronze medal with Korea taking both first and second. It is his first world medal and the first medal of this championship for the United States.
In the senior ladies 10,000 points-elimination race, Briana Kramer found new challenges as she competed at the senior level for the first time. She skated with Chelsea Creveling and just as expected she was entering new horizons. After a fall of several skaters during lap 44 the race was restarted. Chelsea was eliminated early in the race and even though Bri picked up one point, she would also be eliminated. The placements for this race were Korea, Italy and New Zealand.
Jake Powers found himself in the same situation as Briana being a new senior skater in the senior men points-elimination race. He skated with veteran Michael Cheek and the two looked to be a good team. Jake would be the first of the two to be eliminated. Michael would be next several laps later. This race was interesting as the final three took off and the pack did not give chase. The final would then be Belgium, Korea followed by Italy.
Junior ladies 300 meter time trial was another one of those roller coaster rides. With both Alex Harris and Erin Jackson making it to the final the emotions were up, down, up and then down again. Alex skated her heart out but would end up in tears as she accomplished 12th place. Even though this was quite good, she could not stop the tears. When Erin ran her race the USA crowd cheered as she skated a better time than her heat which she had slipped in. This “up” would not last long as 2 Koreans and a Colombian would beat her time putting Erin in 4th place.
After day one, the USA has a gold medal, a bronze medal and a new World Record.