U.S. long track speedskaters brought home medals in every color from World Cup 4 that concluded Sunday in Nagano, Japan. The three-day competition at M-Wave, site of the 1998 Olympic Winter Games, yielded the top medals’ take so far this season for the Americans.
It was a record-setting event for Olympian and World Champion Brittany Bowe (Ocala, Fla.) in her specialty, the 1000 meters. On Saturday, she skated to her seventh straight gold world cup medal in that event and set a new track record in a time of 1:14.344.
“Nearing the end of an eight-week trip, things can become challenging, both mentally and physically,” Brittany said. “To stay strong, I continue to look back on all of the training I have put in and I know that I am prepared to do my best when I get to the starting line. I am really pleased that I have been able to perform through the end and remain undefeated in the 1000m.”
Her win broke the American record for consecutive world cup victories in that discipline, one she shared with Olympians Bonnie Blair and Heather Bergsma. Bowe is averaging better than a half-second margin of victory during her streak dating to last season, a significant gap to the rest of the field. She lowered track records in six of her seven 1000m wins, plus broke the world record and added a world championship gold.
Bowe also skated to a pair of eighth place finishes in the 500m. Her other specialty, the 1500 meters, was not contested in Nagano.
Olympian and World Champion Joey Mantia (Ocala, Fla.) skated to a silver medal in the Mass Start (7:54.67) after winning his semifinal earlier in the day. The second-place finish moved him to the top of the points standing for the world cup Mass Start.
“I feel like a complete rookie again,” Joey said. “I wasn’t paying attention to [Jordan] Belchos and had no idea when I went for the sprint that he was in the lead of in front of the pack. When I crossed the line, I put my hands up because I thought I won and realized quickly the mistake I made. Can’t help but laugh and congratulate Jordan on a nice race.”
Olympic medalist Mia Kilburg (Crestview, Fla.) earned a bronze medal for her third-place finish in the Mass Start (8:27.35). This is the first individual world cup medal of her career. Kilburg also skated to third in the 3000 B final in Nagano.
“I crossed the line as if I’d won the race!” Mia said. “I couldn’t be more excited. The race went just as I hoped. I was able to position myself well going into the last two laps. I got stuck for a second behind a crash on the last lap but was able to avoid it and skate to my first world cup medal!”
Kimi Goetz (Flemington, N.J.) had a stellar performance in Nagano. She leaves world cup 4 with two top-14 finishes: ninth place in the 1000m (1:16.379), ninth place in the second 500m (38.121) and 14th in the first 500m (38.541).
“This is my first top-10 finish and it felt great to have each 1000m get progressively better throughout the circuit. I’m looking forward to heading home and getting back to work,” Kimi said.
In the second 500m B, Olympian Erin Jackson (Ocala, Fla.) raced to a first-place finish with a time of 38.289. She placed fifth in the first 500 B of the weekend.
“I’m really happy with my improvements over the last two World Cup races,” Erin said. “For me, it’s been about remembering the cues that brought me success last season and trying to reapply them. I’m excited to get another chance at the 500m this weekend!”
Brianna Bocox (Cheyenne, Wyo.) had a great fourth place finish in the 1000 B (1:17.463). She also placed eighth and 10th in two 500b B races. Paige Schwartzburg (Ocala, Fla.) finished 20th in the 3000 B final and 21st in Mass Start. Kilburg, Goetz and Bocox raced the Ladies Team Pursuit A, finishing sixth (3:07.120)
In addition to Mantia’s podium finish, he took third in the 1000 B and joined the men’s Team Pursuit with Emery Lehman (Oak Park, Ill.), Ian Quinn (St. Louis, Mo.), winning the B final (3:46.243).
“We were all happy to improve on our time from Kazakhstan and feel like we are learning as a team,” Ian said. “We all felt solid and are looking forward to singles.”
Quinn had two strong seventh-place finishes in both a Mass Start semi and the finals, Olympian Kimani Griffin (Winston-Salem, N.C.) took 18th in the 1000 A final, and Ethan Cepuran (Glen Ellyn, Ill.) finished 21st in the 5000 B.
Austin Kleba (Campton Hills, Ill.) placed 27th and 28th in two 500 B finals and was 24th in the 1000 B final. Brett Perry (Midland, Mich.) also skated in two 500 B finals, placing 24th and 27th. In the team sprint, the trio of Griffin, Perry and Kleba finished 12th.
“The biggest challenge in [the team sprint] us trying to skate a start with full effort following different skating styles,” Kimani said. “It’s tough to find the balance between effort and comfort with blades in your face. And, obviously, we want to finish the third lap as efficient as we can. It’s a tough race to close out strong.”
After weeks of travel, Team USA returns to Utah to prepare for the U.S. National Long Track Championships Dec. 27-29 at the Utah Olympic Oval.
A Division Highlights:
Brittany Bowe – 1000m – Gold
Joey Mantia – Mass Start – Silver
Mia Kilburg – Mass Start - Bronze
Ladies Team Pursuit – 6th
Brittany Bowe – 1st 500m – 8th
Brittany Bowe – 2nd 500m – 8th
Kimi Goetz – 2nd 500m – 9th
Men’s Team Sprint – 12th
Kimi Goetz – 1st 500m – 14th
Kimani Griffin – 1000m – 18th
Erin Jackson – 500m – 1st
Men’s Team Pursuit – 1st
Joey Mantia – 1000m – 3rd