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Mia Manganello Kilburg Kicks Off Long Track Racing With The Women’s 3K

By Lynn Rutherford | Feb. 05, 2022, 11:40 a.m. (ET)

Mia Manganello Kilburg skates during the women's 3000-meter during the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 on Feb. 5, 2022 in Beijing.

 

BEIJING – On the first full day of events at the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022, and in the first long track speedskating final to be held at the venue nicknamed the Ice Ribbon, veteran U.S. skater Mia Manganello Kilburg went out in the second of 10 pairs in the women’s 3,000-meter on Saturday.

The race didn’t go quite as well as Kilburg helped for. A former inline skater, she admits that even in her second Olympic Winter Games the time trial format can still be a challenge. The lone U.S. skater in the event clocked in the 19th best time, her 4:13.42 seconds was nearly 16 and a half seconds behind that of Dutch skater Irene Schouten, who won in an Olympic record of 3:56.93. Italy’s Francesca Lollobrigida took silver and Isabelle Weidemann of Canada the bronze.

It wasn’t the start Kilburg was hoping for in her second Olympic Winter Games, with the Crestview, Florida, native was admitting she “just didn’t have the legs today.”

“It’s not easy to feel that you didn’t skate your best,” Kilburg said.

There’s reason for optimism, however, as she still has two races to go at Beijing’s National Speed Skating Oval, including what might be her best medal hope, the mass start.

“It’s tough conditions, tough environment,” she said of Saturday’s race. “It’s not my first Olympics, but still, every Olympics has its challenges and things to overcome. It’s difficult to skate the first day and the last day as well, it’s difficult to do your best at both. … Right now, we’re picking and choosing where to succeed and unfortunately, the 3K had to suffer a little bit today.”

Coming out early in the late afternoon session, Kilburg, 32, said the race strategy in the 3K proved challenging for someone who has more of a “racer mentality.”

“It’s just difficult to go out there by yourself and continue to push yourself lap in, lap out,” she said. “It’s tough being the first event, but my focus is for the mass start, and that’s still two weeks away, so there’s still some time to get my legs right.”

Want to follow Team USA athletes during the Olympic Games Beijing 2022? Visit TeamUSA.org/Beijing-2022-Olympic-Games to view the competition schedule, medal table and results.

Mia Manganello Kilburg skates during the women's 3000-meter during the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 on Feb. 5, 2022 in Beijing.

 

Kilburg, along with teammates Heather Bergsma and Brittany Bowe, won bronze in the team pursuit four years ago in PyeongChang. The U.S. didn’t qualify a women’s team in that event this year, but Kilburg is slated to race again in the 1,500-meter on Monday before her main focus, the mass start on Feb. 19.

Mass start made its Olympic debut in PyeongChang and has fast become a favorite fan event. Three-time Olympian and defending world champion Joey Mantia calls it “NASCAR on ice.” Eschewing the usual time trial format used in other long track races, the mass start features as many as 24 skaters going head-to-head over 16 laps, with four intermediate sprints mixed in. Teamwork and strategy are key. 

That type of racing suits Kilburg, who thinks she still lacks experience in individual time trials.

Though that’s not to say she can’t thrive in time trials too. She earned her spot in the 3,000 with a great race at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials, held in Milwaukee early last month. There, she won in 4:07.60.

“At trials, I made a huge jump for myself tactically and also physically,” Kilburg said. “So today, I tried the same mindset, but my legs were not there. … I love (the 3,000), but for me right now it’s not a consistent race, which I think just takes time and learning how to race it.” 

Kilburg’s bio proves her point. She started out as an inline roller skater, switching to ice at age 13, competing in long track for seven years, including four appearances at the junior world championships. After the 2010 Olympic trials, she took a five-year break to concentrate on professional cycling, returning to the ice in 2016. 

“I’ve skated for a long time, but at this level I’m still inexperienced,” she said. “It’s going to take me a little (while) to get there, so hopefully next year will be even better. … The girls on top have been doing this type of racing for longer, and it just takes time.”

To accommodate her racing schedule, Kilburg didn’t walk in Friday’s Opening Ceremony. Instead, she watched from a couch as teammates including fellow Florida natives Joey Mantia, Erin Jackson and Brittany Bowe enjoyed themselves. Bowe served as one of Team USA’s flag bearers, along with curler John Shuster.

“It’s a unified family, especially our all-around team,” she said. “There are six of us, and they are truly the closest people in my life, aside from my husband and parents. It helps to go to training with people you love that you know are going to push you and love you. It’s made a huge difference in my career, and I know my future, as well.”

Kilburg’s athletic career has truly been a family affair. Parents Karen and Dominic Manganello are restauranteurs; as a child growing up in Crestville, she worked at their eatery, Mia’s Italian Restaurant. They sold the restaurant when Kilburg was 13, moving to Salt Lake City so their daughter could pursue speedskating in earnest. There, they opened two more restaurants, also since sold. 

In 2018, the skater wed Craig Kilburg, a neurosurgeon. They make their home in Cincinnati, where Craig practices at Mayfield Brain & Spine.

“Unfortunately, right now its 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning (at home),” Kilburg said right after the 3,000. “My husband is on call so he might be up. I think my parents got up to watch, but they’re probably back asleep now.”

Lynn Rutherford

Lynn Rutherford is a sportswriter based out of New York. She is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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