Just 17, Jordan Stolz becomes third-youngest U.S. Olympic men’s speed skater
Jordan Stolz is staking his claim as the future of speed skating in the United States, but Joey Mantia is not done yet.
Stolz, 17, won the 1000m at the U.S. Olympic Speed Skating Trials with a time of 1:07.62, making his first Olympic team on Thursday. Stolz broke the track record at Milwaukee’s Pettit National Ice Center held by Shani Davis, the two-time Olympic gold medalist in the 1000 in 2006 and 2010.
Mantia, 35, who posted the second-fastest time in the race, is likely to make his third straight Olympic team when the seven-man squad is announced this weekend.
Mantia said a skater like Stolz only comes around “every now and then.”
“It’s rare,” he added, “but it’s nice that I get to see that at the end of my career as I fizzle out here. Hopefully I’ve got a couple more good ones in me at the Olympics, but he’s definitely going to carry that torch into the next several quads.”
When Davis set the long-standing track record of 1:08.33 on Nov. 26, 2005, Stolz was a mere 18 months old.
Now he’s the fastest skater over two laps in his home rink.
“It means a lot, especially to beat it from Shani Davis,” said Stolz, who is from nearby Kewaskum. “I know the ice is a lot faster than when he was skating, but it’s still nice to have my name on the track record board.”
And to have his name on the Olympic team.
The 2020 Youth Olympian will become the third-youngest American man to compete in the Olympics in long track speed skating behind Eric Heiden and Emery Lehman, who were also 17 years old in their first Games.
While Stolz is on his way to the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, a second spot is not guaranteed. Team USA has qualified for two spots at the Olympic Games, but has a maximum number of seven berths on the men’s side.
With doubling by athletes later this week, Mantia would compete in the 1000 at his third straight Games.
However, he was not pleased with his time Thursday of 1:09.00. He then had to sit and wait while Stolz went faster and Austin Kleba, a 2016 Youth Olympian, came awfully close at 1:09.15 in the final pairing.
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At the 2018 Winter Olympics, Mantia placed fourth in the 1000, just missing the podium. He was also eighth in the 1500 and ninth in mass start. Mantia is reigning world champion in the mass start, which is expected to be his best event in Beijing.
While Mantia is a converted inline skater from Ocala, Florida, Stolz has always skated on the ice.
“He has just got a really good feel for his skates,” Mantia said. “He doesn’t think too much, which is great. His coach told me he barely has to tell him anything, so he’s just a natural.”
The veteran remembered when he first saw the kid. It was a couple of years ago in Salt Lake City.
Stolz was “this scrawny little kid and he wasn’t very fast,” Mantia said, “then all of sudden he goes back home for a summer. It’s that special time when a boy grows into a young man and he comes back. He was jacked; he had these big muscles.”
Stolz also remembers how much he’d changed, and that he was suddenly able to keep up with the older skaters.
“It’s pretty fun, especially with how fast it came up,” Stolz said. “I guess two years ago I wasn’t anywhere near them. And all the power came, and I went straight up.”
This year has been sensational for Stolz as he has been a threat to break not only junior records, but senior ones as well. Stolz is coming off a World Cup silver medal in the 1000 last month in Calgary as well as a world junior record.
He has also set the American record in the 500 – at the senior level – as well as the world junior record at the same distance.
“Jordan has been really, really fun to watch,” said Brittany Bowe, who won the women’s 1000m at the trials and also set a track record. “He is incredible. I don’t even know if he knows how good he is -- and he should, because he’s set a new junior world record every time he’s stepped on the ice.
“But he’s just a shy teenager from what I’ve seen up to this point and I’m sure he’ll warm up as he gets more involved and more comfortable with the team.”
Bowe said when Stolz won his silver medal at the Calgary World Cup, “every American that was in the building, we all went in front of the podium before he got his medal.”
And with Bowe, Mantia and Erin Jackson – the other top Americans – coming from inline skating, Bowe said Stolz is “the odd man out.”
But he certainly was at home at the Pettit Center, even though the kefir he had before the race made him sick after his tremendous effort.
“I feel like my performance was pretty good,” Stolz said. “It could have been a little bit better… it was good enough for sure.”
And he said it gives him some confidence going into Beijing.
“There’s a possibility for (a medal),” Stolz said, “but I’m not expecting it or anything. I’m just going to try and do the best race I can at the Olympics and see where it ends up. I’d like to get in the top 5 or top 6. I’d be happy with that.”
For now, he has the 500 on Friday as he is the favorite to qualify for the Games in his second event.
“I really want to get a good time in the 500,” Stolz said, adding that making his first Olympic team has “set in a little bit, but once I go, I’ll be able to call myself an Olympian.”
Mantia, who has enjoyed that designation for the past eight years, said Stolz is already a factor in Team USA’s success on the ice this season.
“Our team is doing so well and Jordan is a big part of that,” Mantia said. “Being a young kid, stepping up and crushing through junior world records and track records… it’s definitely raising everybody’s game. I watch him in practice and I’m like, ‘I gotta go faster. I gotta step it up.’”
Karen Rosen, who has covered every summer and winter Olympics since 1992, is a special contributor to NBCSports.com.
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