MILWAUKEE (AP) – Mia Manganello had tears as she approached the starting line Saturday night. She couldn’t stop smiling once she finished.
A return to speedskating paid off after a five-year break – Manganello had finally qualified for the Olympics.
Manganello secured a spot to the Winter Games with a third-place finish in the 1,500 meters at the U.S. speedskating trials, qualifying with a time of 1 minute, 59.28 seconds. Brittany Bowe won the 3 3/4-lap event at 1:55.92, and Heather Bergsma was second at 1:56.12.
But Bowe and Bergsma have already qualified for the Olympics. Manganello, 28, raised both arms in jubilation as she stepped up to the podium.
“It’s everything I thought it would feel like. It’s a moment that I’ve been dreaming about, at least this year for sure every day,” she said. “I can’t believe it’s actually true.”
A former inline skater who switched to ice at age 13, Manganello needed a break after failing to advance out of the 2010 Olympic Trials. She spent five years racing professionally in cycling before returning to speedskating in 2016.
Manganello skated in the last pair on Saturday, two groups after favorites Bowe and Bergsma squared off. She felt an Olympic berth was within reach.
“I was pretty much tearing up when going to the line, knowing that if I just went out and skated the best I could (to) my potential that I would make it,” Manganello said with an ear-to-ear grin. “Luckily that day came that I finally could be an Olympian.”
In the men’s 1,500, Joey Mantia took first at 1:46.30, followed by Brian Hansen at 1:46.64 and Shani Davis at 1:47.15.
While Mantia and Davis had already qualified, the second-place finish allowed Hansen to clinch a spot to his third Games.
A 2010 silver medalist in team pursuit, Hansen followed a path similar to Manganello in returning to the Olympics. Hansen took a break from the oval after the 2014 Games in Sochi and attended to the University of Colorado. He put the skates away, and went mountain biking and skiing while earning his degree.
Hansen said he wasn’t sure that he wanted to return to speedskating after Sochi. Being away from the ice gave him fresh perspective.
“Getting outside of the rink and doing something else on the mountains, then coming back here – it’s exciting being back and gives me a nice mindset,” Hansen said.
Davis had locked up another Olympic trip with a second-place finish in the 1,000 on Wednesday. The two-time Olympic champion in that event, the 35-year old Davis also has two Olympic silvers in the 1,500.
The oval veteran was happy with his first 700 meters on Saturday, but said that he needed to work on the final 800.
“I put out a lot of energy in the 1,000. To have some down time … it wasn’t quite enough to be really strong in the 1,500,” Davis said.
His focus was just on qualifying.
“I think that I have the tools to be a real threat for sure in the 1,000,” Davis said. “The 1,500 kind is kind of questionable, but anything can happen in the Olympics.”
Jonathan Garcia and Kimani Griffin, who did not race on Saturday, earned trips to the Games by virtue of qualification rules, with Mantia and Davis eligible at multiple distances. Garcia and Griffin finished second and third, respectively, in the 500 on Friday.
On the women’s side, Jerica Tandiman clinched a spot on the team on Saturday, with Bowe and Bergsma able to double up in other distances. Tandiman finished fourth in the 1,000.