Erin Jackson during the women's 500-meter speedskating race
United States' Erin Jackson skates during the women's 500-meter World Cup speedskating race at the Utah Olympic Oval Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021, in Kearns, Utah. Among the world’s best skaters and leading medal contenders, Brittany Bowe, Erin Jackson and Joey Mantia are all from the same city: Ocala, Florida, of all places. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

Three Ocala Natives compete for gold at Beijing Olympics

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Ocala native Erin Jackson won gold in the women’s 500-meter speedskate on Sunday.

“It’s like a dream come true,” Jackson said. “I wouldn’t have predicted this a year ago.”

After slipping at the U.S. Olympic trials and failing to finish in the top two in any of her events, going to the Beijing Olympics this year did not seem possible. That is until one of her teammates and fellow Ocala skater Brittany Bowe, who qualified in three individual events, gave up her spot in the 500 meter so Jackson could compete. A second shot at this race led Jackson to become the first U.S. female speedskater to win individual gold since 1994. With the win, she also claimed the title of the first Black woman to win a medal in speedskating.

Here are the three athletes and their upcoming events/results. Additional results will be added after each race.

Brittany Bowe

Results:

    • Feb. 7 – Women’s 1,500 meter: 10th place
    • Feb. 13 – Women’s 500 meter: 16th place
    • Feb. 17 – Women’s 1,000 meter: 3rd place
Brittany Bowe, of the United States, skates to victory in the women’s 1500-meter competition at the ISU World Cup speedskating event in Calgary, Alberta, Sunday, Dec. 12, 2021. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press via AP)

Brittany Bowe is a three-time Olympian and seven-time world champion in speedskating.

At the age of 8, Bowe took up in-line skating in Ocala, soon becoming a well-known figure in the sport with 32 inline world championship medals. She played Division I basketball at Florida Atlantic University from 2006 to 2010 and chose to pursue speedskating in 2010 rather than trying to play basketball professionally.

Bowe competed in her first Olympic games in 2014, where she placed sixth in the women’s team pursuit, eighth in the 1,000 meter, 13th in the 500 meter and 14th in the 1,500 meter. She placed fourth in the 1,000 meter and fifth in the 500 meter and 1,500 meter in the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympic Winter Games. In 2019, Bowe was crowned the Utah Olympic Female of the Year for the second year in a row.

In the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics opening ceremony, she served as a flag bearer beside five-time Olympic curler John Shuster. Although Bowe was ranked No. 2 in the world in the 1,500 meter heading into the 2022 U.S. Olympic Trials, she placed 10th in the 1,500 meter in Beijing.

Erin Jackson

Results

  • Feb. 13 – Women’s 500 meter: 1st place
Erin Jackson during the women's 500-meter speedskating race
United States’ Erin Jackson skates during the women’s 500-meter World Cup speedskating race at the Utah Olympic Oval Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021, in Kearns, Utah. Among the world’s best skaters and leading medal contenders, Brittany Bowe, Erin Jackson and Joey Mantia are all from the same city: Ocala, Florida, of all places. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

At the age of 10, Erin Jackson took up in-line speedskating in Ocala. In 2017, she traded her rollerblades for a pair of ice skates.

After just four months of training, Jackson qualified for the 2018 U.S. Olympic Team, becoming the first Black woman to make the U.S. Long Track Olympic team. She placed 24th during the 500 meter in the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympic Winter Games.

After a 2021 World Cup season that saw Jackson win nine medals, including five gold, she nearly missed the 2022 Winter Olympic Games. At trials, Jackson finished third in the 500 meter and 1,000 meter, and placed sixth in the 1,500 meter. Teammate and fellow Ocala native Brittany Bowe won all three of those events but decided to relinquish her spot in the 500 meter, which allowed Jackson to compete in Beijing.

Jackson graduated cum laude from the University of Florida in 2015 with a degree in materials science and engineering.

Erin Jackson advanced to 1,000 meters but did not end up participating.

Joey Mantia

Results:

  • Feb. 8 – Men’s 1,500 meter: 6th place
  • Feb. 13 – Men’s team pursuit quarterfinals: 2nd place
  • Feb. 15 – Men’s team pursuit finals: 3rd place
  • Feb. 19 – Men’s mass start: 4th place
United States’ Joey Mantia celebrates following the men’s 1500-meter World Cup speedskating race at the Utah Olympic Oval Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021, in Kearns, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

Joey Mantia is a three-time Olympian who started professional in-line skating at 17. His inline accolades include 28 world championship titles and over 90 national titles. Around age 25, Mantia decided to take on speedskating.

Mantia competed in his first Olympic games in 2014, placing seventh in team pursuit, 15th in the 1,000 meter and 22nd in the 1,500 meter. Mantia qualified for the 2018 U.S. Olympic Team and placed fourth in the 1,000 meter, eighth in the 1,500 meter and team pursuit, and ninth in the mass start at the Olympics.

He was ranked No. 1 in the men’s 1,500 meter heading into 2022 U.S. Olympic Trials, but he placed sixth in the race Feb. 8.

Mantia’s team placed second in the men’s team pursuit on Sunday and third in the men’s pursuit finals Tuesday.

About Madison Panzer

Madison is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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