U.S. Men Secure Bronze In Olympic Speedskating Team Pursuit
by Lisa Costantini
Ethan Cepuran, Casey Dawson, Emery Lehman and Joey Mantia pose with their medals during the Men's Team Pursuit medal ceremony at the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 on Feb. 15, 2022 in Beijing, China.
The Olympic medal that has eluded three-time Olympic speedskater Joey Mantia for the past two Winter Games is finally here – a bronze in the men’s team pursuit at the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022.
It’s a feeling his teammate, first-timer Casey Dawson, can relate to after arriving in Beijing minus the bag that held his skates. But now, both speedskaters have claimed what is rightfully theirs (Thankfully, Dawson’s bag showed up ahead of the quarterfinals, days after he raced in the 1,500-meter in a borrowed pair.)
The 35-year-old Mantia — who just missed the podium at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 with a fourth in the individual 1000m — led the U.S. team on the ice oval to a resounding victory over the Netherlands in the B final of the men’s team pursuit to take the bronze with a time of 3:38.81.
The win marks the second speedskating medal for the U.S. in Beijing. On Sunday night, Team USA’s Erin Jackson skated to the top spot in the 500-meter to secure the first American gold since 2010, when Shani Davis won in the men’s 1,000-meter.
In the men’s two team pursuit races leading up to the finals, the U.S. trio consisted of Casey Dawson, Emery Lehman and Ethan Cepuran, who train daily together in Salt Lake City, Utah.
In the quarterfinals — a seeding race where the top four times move on to the semis — the U.S. had the second-best time, just 0.04 behind Norway and 1.16 ahead of the Russian Olympic Committee. In the second half of the race against Norway, the Americans picked up the pace to nearly swipe the top spot from the defending gold medalists.
Team USA went on to lose to their semifinal pairing to the ROC, who skated an Olympic-record time and booked their ticket to the gold medal final.
In the third-place final, the world-record-holding Americans went head-to-head against the Netherlands, the bronze medalists from PyeongChang. Team USA swapped out Cepuran for Mantia, who followed their team tactic of skating out front the whole race.
Team United States skate during the Men's Team Pursuit Final B at the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 on Feb. 15, 2022 in Beijing, China.
While many countries choose to have their athletes take turns out front, staying with one leader the entire race has been a recent strategy pioneered by the U.S. men, resulting in two of three world cup wins this season. In their world cup victory in Salt Lake City, the same threesome set a world record time of 3:34.47, breaking the previous record of 3:34.68 held by the Dutch.
In the gold medal final Tuesday night at the National Speed Skating Oval — also known as the “Ice Ribbon” — Norway came out on top as the winner for the second straight Olympics. They beat the ROC to become the first country to win back-to-back Olympic golds in the team pursuit.
It was Norway’s first speedskating medal of the Beijing Games, where they went in as the team pursuit Olympic record holders thanks to a time of 3:37.08 in PyeongChang.
The ROC smashed that record in the semis and set a new time to beat when they triumphed over the U.S. by 0.43 seconds, coming in at 3:36.62.
Mantia reflected on that semifinal race, which he watched from the sidelines while cheering on his teammates.
“The way these guys [ROC] skated in the semi — [an] Olympic record. You can’t really be sad about that,” he shared.
“We came into this knowing that we had the world record and what we are capable of. We all did the best we could. Everybody fought hard and did their job.”
“We’re disappointed, but at the same time, we got off the ice, shifted focus, and were like, ‘How are we going to win bronze?’” said Cepuran.
He knew he gave it his all, admitting he was hurting by the time he crossed the line. “You can’t live in the past. You’ve got to focus on what we can do next,” he said.
In their final race against the Netherlands, it was evident that the Dutch were getting tired as the U.S. crossed a full 2.81 seconds ahead of their competition.
The team pursuit competition — a 3,200-meter race where two teams of three go head-to-head for eight laps on the 400-meter oval — debuted at the Olympic Winter Games Torino 2006. Since then, the U.S. has earned only a single medal, winning silver at the 2010 Vancouver Games.
The team pursuit is the only team event in speedskating.
“The Olympics is such an amplifier,” Mantia said. “When you are on, it amplifies that. And when you are not quite on, it amplifies that. So it creates this big gap between who’s on and who’s off.”
The Ocala, Florida, native has two Olympic races to go in Beijing. After coming in sixth in the men’s 1500m, he still has the 1000m and the mass start, where he is the three-time world champion.
With two races behind him and the elusive Olympic medal around his neck, “I feel like now I can just breathe,” he said.
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.