By Gary R. Blockus | Jan. 01, 2018, 4:42 p.m. (ET)

Joey Mantia competes in the men 1500m at the ISU World Single Distances Speed Skating Championships on Feb. 12, 2017 in Gangneung, South Korea. 

 

It’s been 20 years since the Pettit National Ice Center last hosted the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Long Track Speedskating. The venerable facility in Milwaukee will celebrate its 25th anniversary by hosting the 2018 event from Jan. 2-7.

Team USA has qualified spots for up to eight men and eight women who can fill 24 racing positions in long track speedskating in the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018. If an individual earns spots in multiple distances at the Olympic trials, the U.S. will take less than 16 skaters to PyeongChang.

The Olympic trials are being held in Milwaukee because it’s relatively the same altitude as the Gangneung Oval where the speedskating competition will take place in just over one month.

Here are some of the storylines to watch for this week’s U.S. Olympic Team Trials:


How Team USA’s Starting Positions For PyeongChang Break Down
Based on this fall’s world cup results, U.S. long track skaters earned the right to enter athletes in 10 of a possible 14 events. The women will enter three skaters each in the 500-, 1,000- and 1,500-meter, as well as one each in the 3,000 and 5,000, and two in the mass start. The men also qualified three skaters each in the 500, 1,000 and 1,500, plus two in the mass start; they were unable to qualify skaters in the 5,000 or 10,000, but did earn a spot in the team pursuit. The U.S. is slated as first reserve for the women’s team pursuit. 


Heather Bergsma Looks To Threaten In Four Events
A two-time Olympian and the reigning world champion in both the 1,000 and 1,500, Bergsma is beginning to gain peak form after winning gold in the 1,000-meter at the Calgary World Cup last month after winning 1,500 silver and 1,000 bronze in Stavanger, Norway. Bergsma, 28, is seeking her first Olympic medal, but she does own 14 world championship medals. Not only is she one of the best in the world in the 500-, 1,000- and 1,500-meter, but she holds a 40-point lead over Mia Manganello in the mass start race, which she won world bronze in earlier this year, heading into Milwaukee. Bergsma is the current world-record holder in the 1,500, with a time of 1:50.85 set on Nov. 21, 2015, at the Utah Olympic Oval.


Joey Mantia Expected To Show His World Champion Form
Joey Mantia, 31, is the reigning world champion in the mass start, which makes its Olympic debut in PyeongChang. A 2014 Olympian, Mantia is a 28-time world champion inline skater and looking to make his second Olympic team. The two-man Olympic mass start team is chosen based off results of the two mass start races contested at the fall world cup qualifier, plus one from this week’s Olympic trials. Going into the trials, Mantia has an 80-point lead on Jeffrey Swider-Peltz. Mantia earned a world cup silver in mass start this season, as well as a 1,500-meter silver.


Shani Davis Has Plenty Of Speed In Run For Fifth Team
Shani Davis, a two-time Olympic champion, is looking to secure a spot on his fifth U.S. Olympic Team. At age 35, Davis can still give younger competitors a run for their money, and as a nine-time world-record holder, he has the smarts and form to reach the finish line in good position. He won back-to-back Olympic gold medals in the 1,000-meter, and back-to-back silver medals in the 1,500-meter in 2006 and 2010. Though he and the rest of the U.S. team did not medal in Sochi four years ago, Davis won the 1,000 world title in 2015. He medaled on the world cup stage as recently as last season, when he took silver in the 1,000 and became the third-oldest world cup medalist at that distance.


Is Brittany Bowe Back To Top Form?
Brittany Bowe, a 2014 Olympian and four-time world champion, is fighting her way back into form after sustaining a concussion during a collision while training in July 2016. The incident triggered a variety of conditions, including post-concussion syndrome, vestibular dysfunction and postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome. But Bowe has been making great progress lately; her 1,500-meter time of 1:55.49 at t his month’s Salt Lake City World Cup was her fastest in nearly two years. Bowe was the 2015-16 Grand World Cup champion, won back-to-back world sprint championships in 2015 and 2016, and was the only skater to win three individual medals at the 2016 World Single Distances Championships.


Will 47-Year-Old KC Boutiette Make The Team?
KC Boutiette competed in four Olympics – from 1994 to 2006 – before hanging up his skates; he returned to the sport in 2015. Competing this week against many skaters who were not yet born when he raced at his first Olympics, Boutiette will aim for a spot in the history books. Should he make the 2018 U.S. Olympic Team, he will become America’s oldest Olympic speedskater. In November 2016, Boutiette became the oldest world cup medalist ever in the sport’s history when he earned silver in the mass start, a race that is the veteran’s reason for returning. But he has his work cut out for him as he currently sits sixth in the mass start standings.


All In The Family
Olympic hopeful Blair Cruikshank is the 17-year-old daughter of two four-time U.S. Olympians in speedskating. Her mom is Bonnie Blair (hence Blair’s first name), a five-time Olympic gold medalist. Her dad is Dave Cruikshank. Despite the lineage, Blair Cruikshank speedskated for the first time in 2014 after wrist injuries put a halt to her pursuit of gymnastics.

Nancy Swider-Peltz Jr., 30, a 2010 Olympian, is looking to make her second Olympics along with her brother, Jeffrey Swider-Peltz Jr., 28, who is seeking his first Olympic berth. The Chicago siblings are the children of four-time U.S. Olympic speedskater Nancy Swider-Peltz, who was the first U.S. athlete to compete in four Olympic Winter Games.


How To Watch Live

If you can’t make it to the Pettit National Ice Center, you can watch the action live each day on NBCSN and NBCOlympics.com.

The broadcast schedule is below (all times ET).

Tuesday, Jan. 2: 5:30-7:30 p.m. (women’s 3,000, men’s 5,000)
Wednesday, Jan. 3: 6-7:30 p.m. (men’s and women’s 1,000)
Thursday, Jan. 4: 6:30-8:30 p.m. (women’s 5,000, men’s 10,000)
Friday, Jan. 5: 6:30-8 p.m. (men’s and women’s 500)
Saturday, Jan. 6: 6-8 p.m. (men’s and women’s 1,500)
Sunday, Jan. 7: 6-6:30 p.m. (men’s and women’s mass start)

Gary R. Blockus is a journalist from Allentown, Pennsylvania, who has covered multiple Olympic Games. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.