If day one of the five-day 2022 U.S. Speed Skating Olympic Trials was any indication, a thrilling week of long track action is on the way. At least one athlete – and potentially as many as three – punched their ticket to the Winter Games at the Pettit National Ice Center in Milwaukee, which saw a photo finish to decide the lone guaranteed spot.
Mia Manganello Kilburg did all she could to earn herself a chance to represent Team USA in the women’s 3000m. The 32-year-old Floridian won the final pair in 4:07.61 to best her rivals by more than seven seconds.
Manganello Kilburg, who holds a bronze medal in team pursuit from the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics, now must wait and see if the performance will indeed merit an Olympic spot. The United States currently does not hold a quota spot in the women’s 3000m for the 2022 Games but is first in line for any reallocated spots not used by nations with a surplus of eligible athletes.
The race had significance for Manganello Kilburg even beyond its Olympic relevance. Her performance represented a personal victory as she improves in the discipline. “I’m working on my mental block of getting through this race,” she said afterward, satisfied that she did not fall back into a habit of expending too much energy early in the race. “It’s a big, big jump for me.”
Manganello Kilburg, who has also competed professionally in cycling, has her sights set on the mass start event for the 2022 Games as well, as does second-place finisher in the 3000, Dessie Weigel.
With two Olympic Team spots likely available in the men’s 5000m – a race of more than six minutes – the top three were separated by 0.17.
2014 and 2018 Olympian Emery Lehman laid down the benchmark in Pair 3 of 5, clocking in at 6:16.71. Ethan Cepuran and Casey Dawson followed in Pair 4 and put on a show. The two 21-year-olds traded leads multiple times during the 12.5-lap race, exiting the final turn dead even.
Cepuran, by a skate length, snatched the win and the one guaranteed Olympic berth at 6:16.54. Dawson, critically, finished .01 ahead of Lehman’s time to grab hold of the non-guaranteed (but expected) second spot.
All three men are contenders to represent the U.S. in the team pursuit event at the 2022 Games.