Joey Mantia bided his time in the men’s ISU World Cup mass start race on Saturday in Tomaszów Mazowiecki, Poland.
Then, when the time was just right, the two-time Olympian and two-time reigning world champion in the event took off, coming from behind to win his best event at the second world cup stop of the season.
Mantia set a relatively relaxed pace for himself early on in the final event of the day, ranking only 12th of 16 skaters after the first of 16 laps. What might have looked like a poor start was actually strategic: he slowly advanced on his competition, overtaking those ahead of him one by one. By lap six he was in ninth place. Two laps later, he moved into fifth.
His big break came with just two laps to go, when he jumped from eighth to third. After that, he poured on the speed to pass three-time Olympic medalist Jorrit Bergsma—husband of American great Heather Bergsma—and 2015 mass start world champion Arjan Stroetinga, both of the Netherlands for the win in 7 minutes, 45.1 seconds. Bergsma grabbed silver, Stroetinga bronze.
Eschewing the traditional two-person time-trial format of long track speedskating, mass start features as many as 24 skaters who begin together and race for 16 laps, with four intermediate sprints throughout. The event made its Olympic debut at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018.
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Mantia, 33, won the mass start world title in 2017 and 2019. This marked the former inline skater’s second world cup win in a mass start, and the first since December of 2016.
Mantia’s was the lone U.S. medal on a day where four events were contested in Poland. Fresh from setting a track record last week in Belarus in the women’s 1,000-meter, Brittany Bowe finished just off the podium in fourth in the women’s 500, while Mantia was 16th in the men’s 1,500. Additionally, Ian Quinn was seventh in the men’s mass start, while the women’s team of Kimi Goetz, Mia Kilburg, Brianna Bocox and Paige Schwartzburg was sixth in team pursuit.
The world cup concludes Sunday with finals in the men’s 500 and team pursuit and women’s 1,500 and mass start.
Blythe Lawrence is a journalist based in Seattle. She has covered two Olympic Games and is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.