Florida trio continues to turn heads in speed skating

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Erin Jackson, Brittany Bowe and Joey Mantia continued to do their hometown proud and consolidated their Olympic speed skating medal prospects this weekend.

The American trio raised in Ocala, Florida, combined for another four World Cup podiums at the season’s second stop in Stavanger, Norway. A week earlier, they totaled five podiums, with three wins.

Jackson, a 29-year-old roller derby convert, won a third consecutive 500m on Saturday and finished second in another 500m on Sunday.

She defeated 2018 Olympic champion Nao Kodaira of Japan in those first three races — becoming the first Black woman to win a World Cup long-track speed skating race, according to U.S. Speedskating — before Kodaira clipped her by .14 on Sunday.

Jackson, who became a speed skater in the months leading up to the 2018 Olympics, came into this season with a best World Cup finish of ninth. Now she’s an Olympic medal favorite, if not the gold-medal favorite in the 500m sprint.

“In PyeongChang, I felt a little out of place, like, how did I get here?” Jackson said Saturday, according to the International Skating Union. “Now it’s completely different.”

Bowe, a two-time Olympian and former Florida Atlantic basketball player, is now up to 32 World Cup victories after taking the 1000m for the second consecutive week.

She is the reigning world champion and world-record holder in the event and was fourth at the 2018 Olympics, missing a medal by .38 after suffering a concussion in summer 2016.

Jackson or Bowe looks likely to win the U.S.’ first individual Olympic speed skating medal (if Mantia doesn’t beat them to it), and perhaps its first speed skating gold in any event, since Shani Davis in 2010.

Mantia, an inline world champion like Jackson and Bowe, took second in the 1500m on Sunday, one week after finishing third in the event known as the Race of Kings.

Mantia, a three-time world champion in the mass start, can in February become the first U.S. man to win an Olympic speed skating medal since Davis in 2010.

Jackson, Bowe and Mantia all trained at different times under inline coach Renee Hildebrand in Ocala before converting to the ice and moving to Salt Lake City. Hildebrand, a grandmother in her late 50s, has molded skaters at a roller rink behind a Save A Lot.

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Florida trio continues to turn heads in speed skating originally appeared on NBCSports.com