MILWAUKEE — Brian Hansen already has one Olympic medal. Now the two-time Olympian has a chance to win more.
Hansen — a silver medalist in the team pursuit at the Olympic Winter Games Vancouver 2010 — finished second in the 1,500-meter at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Long Track Speedskating. The 27-year-old competed in the third-to-last pair and finished in 1:46.64.
“I was nervous all day,” he admitted. “I don’t think there’s too many situations that I’m going to go through that feel more pressure than a day like today.”
“I was so happy that I could go out there and have a good one today and make a third Olympic team,” he added.
Joey Mantia won the 1,500 in 1:46.30 — the second win at Olympic trials for the 31-year-old former inline skating world champion (he won the 1000 on Wednesday night). He came to Olympic trials ranked third in the world in the 1,500.
“I’m hurtin’!” said Mantia shortly after the race. He skated with four-time Olympic medalist Shani Davis in the final pair.
“It was just a struggle to finish the race despite what it looked like,” added Mantia, who was not happy with his time. “I was hurting inside.”
Davis finished third in 1:47.15.
The 1,500 will be Mantia’s and Davis’ second event in PyeongChang. Both qualified in the 1,000 earlier this week.
“I’ll be dead honest with you,” said Davis, who has made his fifth Olympic team at age 35. “I only really have energy to do one race now, and I put out a lot of energy in the 1,000. To have some down time, it wasn’t quite enough to be really strong in the 15.
“That’s where I am in my career, and I accept it and embrace it.”
With Mantia and Davis already on the 2018 U.S. Olympic Team, the news of the race was Hansen’s qualification.
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It’s a comeback of sorts for Hansen, who’s coached by four-time Olympian Nancy Swider-Peltz. After the Sochi Olympics, he took off two years to finish a degree in business at the University of Colorado-Boulder.
In the mountains around Boulder, he rode his mountain bike, and he alpine skied for CU’s club team. It gave him a fresh perspective — enough that he wanted to return to speedskating.
He graduated in May 2017 but had already jumped back into competition on the rink. A nine-time world cup medalist, Hansen raced two world cups last season and qualified to compete in the 1,500 at world single distances championships.
But results have not come as easily as they did before Sochi, where he finished seventh in the 1,500 (top for the U.S.) and ninth in the 1,000. Hansen has not stood on a world cup podium since before the Sochi Games.
“Some of the people I was competing against in 2014, they got a little faster,” he explained. “After taking two years off, I got a little slower. There’s been some moments that I could feel that I was right there at the podium again. But there’s been no race where it’s been enough this year.
But Hansen is optimistic that he can improve before the PyeongChang Games.
“I still have three weeks and I think three weeks is enough to make a difference,” he said. “That’s not my expectation, but it's a hope though.”
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With Mantia and Davis each qualifying for two events, Jonathan Garcia and Kimani Griffin also officially made the 2018 Olympic team. The two men went 2-3 in the 500 last night.
US Speedskating only qualified to bring eight men and eight women to PyeongChang. With 12 quota spots open in the men’s 2018 Olympic races (not including the team pursuit), a podium finish in a couple of the races at trials did not guarantee that skaters would make the team. Three of them have had to wait to see who, if anyone, would double up in events.
Garcia, 31, had wanted to qualify in his best event, the 1,000. But he struggled in that race against his “amazing teammates,” as he called them, and finished fourth. Then he finished second in the 500. A former inline skater and short track speedskater from Houston, Garcia is now a two-time Olympian — both in long track.
Another former inline skater, Griffin is also a classical guitarist and played on PBS’s “From the Top at Carnegie Hall” when he was 17. From Winston-Salem, North Carolina, he attended Columbus State University in Georgia for two years on a full music scholarship before moving to Utah to pursue speedskating full-time. He tried to make the 2014 Olympic team but fell short. PyeongChang will be his first Olympic Games.
Emery Lehman is still waiting to see if he will qualify. He won the 5,000 on Tuesday evening, which the U.S. hasn’t yet earned a quota spot in, and had to finish on the podium in the 1,500 to make the Olympic team. He finished fourth.
With six of eight spots named on the team, it will come down to the mass start to determine the team, and whether the coaches wish to select team pursuit specialists.
In world cup competition this fall, Lehman (along with Mantia and Hansen) helped the U.S. secure a team pursuit berth in PyeongChang.
A freelance writer based in Vermont, Peggy Shinn has covered four Olympic Games. She has contributed to TeamUSA.org since its inception in 2008.