Joey Mantia poses for a portrait during the Team USA Media Summit on Sept. 27, 2017 in Park City, Utah.
Joey Mantia is leaving nothing to chance.
Almost as soon as he could step out of his skates last season, he was sitting down at his computer and modifying his entire training program.
Mantia even bought his own starter’s gun to better simulate race conditions.
Everything seems to be clicking, with Mantia on track to make his third straight Olympic team and hopefully win the first medal by a Team USA male speedskater since 2010. He has only one regret.
“I was like, ‘I don’t know why I didn’t do this earlier,’” Mantia said.
Turning 36 on Feb. 7, the day before the men’s 1500 meters at the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022, Mantia is a medal hope in that event as well as the mass start and team pursuit. He also expects to race the 1000, the event in which he placed a fourth in PyeongChang 2018 — a result that was both disappointing and motivating.
Mantia said he and U.S. long track speedskating coach Ryan Shimabukuro had a three-year plan going into this Olympics, but Mantia changed it to reflect what he was thinking and feeling.
“I covered every base that I thought I was missing from the previous couple of seasons,” he said. “Luckily, when I handed that program to my coach, he looked over it and said, ‘I agree with everything that’s on there.’”
At the conclusion of the shortened 2020-21 season -- held entirely in a bubble in the Netherlands -- Mantia became the first skater to capture three golds in mass start at the world single distances championships. He also won in 2017 and 2019.
While Mantia said he still feels confident that his best bet for an Olympic medal is the mass start, “the only thing that’s changing now is that I think my chances are even as good in the 1500 and the team pursuit.”
Mantia won both of those events at last weekend’s world cup at the Utah Olympic Oval in Kearns, Utah. The venue for the Salt Lake City Olympics in 2002 is also home ice for the Ocala, Florida, native, who was a 28-time inline world champion before switching to speedskating more than a decade ago.
On Dec. 4, Mantia won the 1500 for his fourth world cup gold in that event, although the first since 2016. He became the oldest man to win a non-distance world cup speedskating race and the oldest American to win any world cup speedskating event.
Despite feeling nervous and a little nauseous before the race – “Maybe I had a little bit too much coffee that morning,” he said – Mantia clocked a personal best of 1 minute, 41.15 seconds. He missed the world record by .98 and Shani Davis’ American record from 2011 by only .11.
“I knew I wasn’t feeling great,” Mantia said, “But there’s no point in focusing on the negatives at that particular point. I just relied on my training because there’s been tons of days at practice where I did not feel great, and I still delivered.”
Following world cup finishes this season of third, second and first in the 1500, Mantia is ranked No. 2 in the world behind Zhongyan Ning of China.
The next world cup is this weekend in Calgary, which also has fast ice at high altitude, so Mantia could have another shot at breaking records. That will depend on the weather, he said, and “if the air pressure is low.”
“I’m not particularly trying to be amazing in Calgary,” Mantia said. “It’s something that I’m kind of training through. Salt Lake was my sweet spot for where I really wanted to perform well.”