Giorgia Birkeland reacts after winning the Women's Mass Start event during the 2022 U.S. Speedskating Long Track Olympic Trials on Jan. 9, 2022 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Two athletes booked their Olympic debuts with wins on Sunday during the closing night of the U.S. Olympic Team Trials — Long Track Speedskating in Milwaukee.
Giorgia Birkeland and Ian Quinn were the last two athletes to secure their spots on the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 roster as winners of the mass start event, bringing to an end five days of record-breaking racing.
Birkeland was named the women’s national champion in mass start after winning the race in 9:53.20, adding 60 points toward her Olympic qualifying score. The 19-year-old from White Bear Lake, Minnesota, is a rising star on the world cup circuit.
Mia Manganello Kilburg came in second with a 9:53.34 but had already secured the first spot in mass start, having qualified enough points through the world cup circuit. Manganello Kilburg ranks fifth in this season’s mass start world cup rankings.
The mass start is a cumulative point total of three races. Two mass start races come from the world cup circuit, with the third race occurring at the Olympic Trials.
Quinn, 28, rallied in the last two laps, finishing with a 7:56.82. The St. Louis native also qualified enough points by participating in two world cups in the fall.
On the men's side, Ethan Cepuran came in second with a 7:59.00. The 21-year-old Glen Ellyn, Illinois, native secured his Olympic berth on the first day of the trials by winning the 5,000-meter.
Three-time mass start world champion Joey Mantia finished sixth with 8:10.97. On Saturday, the 35-year-old Ocala, Florida, native punched his Olympic ticket by winning the 500-meter and setting a track record.
Manganello Kilburg’s performance wrapped up a strong week for the 27-year-old from Crestview, Florida, as she came in qualified for the team’s first reserve spot in the 3,000-meter and came in second in the 1,500.
She was thrilled with the first-place finish by Birkeland, who she considers a good friend.
“(Birkeland) is a huge star to come,” Manganello Kilburg said. “She is a fighter. But today, the game plan was to show her strength that she is able to keep up with the top girls, and I believe that was recognized. To show her strength. I still, and she was right there. I’m glad she had her moment to shine.”
Quinn competed in two of the mass starts in the fall world cup season, placing ninth in the season opener in Poland and 12th in Calgary. He was thrilled about the outcome of his third race.
“The plan was to stay into the front,” he said. “Try to keep the chaos high. I do better when there are a lot more breaks. I’m fast in the final sprint as long as there is a lot of stop and go.”
Originally a short track skater, Quinn is ranked sixth in the world in mass start. The 2021 world championships team member transitioned to long track because he felt it easier to control the outcome skating against the clock without the chaos and unknowns of short track.
“I like to use my race experience,” Quinn said. “I come from short track. I try to use that as much as I can and use gut instinct. I try not to plan too much. If you plan too much, you end up overthinking it.”
After most of the 2020-21 season was canceled, Quinn learned to be strict regarding COVID-19 protocols when he met up with other skaters in the “Holland Bubble” for a pair of world cups in early 2021.
Since then, he has set up a strict regimen. For the next two weeks, he’ll be doing take-out groceries, and if he has to go to the store, he’ll go at a low point in the day. He said going to restaurants is definitely out, and he’ll only be eating take-out food. He will be going to the rink and going home.
“It stinks for about two weeks, but it’s worth it if you get to go to the Games.”