Joey Mantia looks to Beijing and beyond

By Tom Haraldsen | Feb. 28, 2019, 1:04 p.m. (ET)

You may know that U.S. long track speed skater Joey Mantia is a two-time Olympian, and a two-time World Champion in the Men’s Mass Start, or that he’s a 12-time junior world champion and 29-time senior world inline skating champion. Perhaps you know he was a three-time gold medalist in the PanAm games, or a world record holder in inline.

What might surprise you are his other interests and talents: accomplished pianist, motorcycle enthusiast, home remodeler, and a successful entrepreneur in the coffee business in, of all places, Utah! Joey Mantia wears a lot of hats—both on skates of all varieties, as well as off of them.

“I love to learn new things and challenge myself,” he said. “I’ve been renovating my house that I bought in Sandy, Utah. Basically, I’ve been teaching myself how to do renovations. And I love to play the piano—wouldn’t say I’m great at it, but I’m good enough to trick someone who doesn’t play into thinking I’m doing it well.”

He also loves riding his motorcycle, and though he loves dogs, doesn’t own one. “I think it would be unfair to kennel one for the seven weeks we travel each season. But someday, I will.”

The native of Ocala, Florida, which has proven to be the origin of many speed skaters who’ve converted from inline, is finishing this season at the ISU World Cup Finals in Salt Lake City after winning his second Men’s Mass Start World Championship in Inzell, Germany last month.

In that race, the final event of the three-day championships, he passed two Korean skaters in the final 200 meters to win gold. That meant a podium finish, a world title and the playing of the national anthem. “It’s always a moment of pride to hear the anthem,” he said. “It means a lot to be able to stand up and see that flag raised and your national anthem played.”

He was also proud of his race, and said, “I knew where I needed to be and what my time was, and I started to take advantage of those things and was a little more in control of how the race was breaking down.” He won the same title in 2017 in Korea, but said this year’s victory “was much more strategic.”

This season has been rough, by Mantia’s standards. “I’ve had a lot of ups and downs from time-trialing since I came over from inline. It’s not something I’ve figured out yet. Any time you put a start on the race, for me it’s a roll of the dice. I’m either going to nail it or I’m not, and most often times, I don’t, unfortunately. I’m a little more consistent with race style, like mass starts.”

Mantia has the 2022 Olympic Winter Games in China on his radar, though that’s three seasons away. So like many athletes in their 30s, he’s begun to ponder what life will be like after speedskating.

“You look around at people who are in their early 20s and they’re not really thinking about anything—just skating,” he says. “But when you get into your 30s and you start to think about a retirement when you’re in your 50s or 60s, things start to creep up really quickly.”

Joey is a partner in a coffee shop called Coffee Lab, located in the College of Pharmacy at the University of Utah. He said, “We’re the hardest coffee shop to find in Salt Lake—in fact, our slogan is ‘Find Coffee Lab’. We focus on the quality of our coffee—we only have one barista, Simon Zivny, and myself. He’s the magic behind the shop—the guy is brilliant when it comes to making coffee. Even though it was an entrepreneurial move for me investing in a coffee shop, it was more like a learning experience. I didn’t drink coffee at all before I got into this adventure, and now I’m crazy about it. It’s opened up a whole new world for me, and it’s something I want to pursue when skating is done.”

Inzell helped Joey realize he’s still got a lot of fuel in his competitive tank, something he hopes to show at the season-ending ISU WC Finals and beyond.

“It’s nice to know that at 33, I’m still capable of winning,” he said. “It’s nice to pop one off and say, I can still do it. That’s the most important thing as an athlete—to rekindle that belief in yourself.”