Chillin’ with Mantia
As the spandex-clad masses of inline speed skaters descend upon the 7-11 Velodrome on the grounds of the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, to compete in the 2012 USA Rollersports Outdoor National Championships, the competition to get a spot on Team USA won’t be as stiff as it’s been in years past. That’s because NSC co-founder, holder of 28 world inline speed titles, world record holder and many-time Team USA member Joey Mantia won’t be on the starting line, or anywhere near Colorado Springs this year.
NSC Newsdesk caught up with Mantia as he was preparing to make his way back to Salt Lake City, Utah, to the Olympic Training Center there, where he’s chasing a different spot on a different team…
NSC: OK, first things first. What are you up to these days? We haven’t seen you in public since the last NSC event.
Joey Mantia: Man, it’s been intense. Since we came back to the oval here in Kearns (Utah, the Utah Olympic Oval) I’m working out six to eight hours a day, six days a week.
NSC: So how is your ice training going? The 2014 Winter Olympics aren’t that far away, from a training standpoint.
Mantia: Its great, but the reality is that it’s just not inlines. I’m just over here for one reason.
NSC: And we know you’re going to do it. But since you brought it up, what’s up with you and your inlines? Are you inline skating much these days?
Mantia: I’ve been skating a ton of inlines as a matter of fact, which makes me miss the sport more than ever. Every Wednesday I skate a solo twenty-four mile time trial for endurance training, usually right around an hour.
NSC: Did I see in your twitter feed (@JRMantia) that you did 24 miles in 52 minutes?
Mantia: (Laughs) Not quite as fast as that! But you know, I’m a hammerhead, so I can still pound it out.
NSC: With that kind of training, are you going to make the trip to Colorado Springs to grab a spot on the World Team and get that free trip to Italy this year?
Mantia: Unfortunately, I won’t be able to make it to outdoor nationals. Didn’t skate indoor nationals either. It will be the first time since I began skating in 1995 that I won’t be attending at least one or the other.
NSC: You’ve got your sights set higher, we all understand that. So does this mean you’ve officially retired from inline competition?
Mantia: Nope. I haven’t retired. I still plan on skating some races in the future. I don’t think I really want to just hang up the inlines, as I see a huge benefit on the ice from maintaining parts of my inline program.
NSC: OK, well, Miguel (Jose – NSC co-founder and President and 2012 National Indoor Inline medalist) is going to wonder why he paid me this mound of money to talk to you on the NSC site if we’re not talking NSC, so…the 2012 NCS season. It kicked butt on so many levels! As the man who was calling the play-by-play, you had the best seat in the house this entire season. In your opinion, what were the top three events you got to call?
Mantia: The first race that comes to mind is the 100m flying time trial from event four. For the most part, I remember each skater posting a faster time than the previous, which resulted in a Colosseum like roar from the crowd, building the momentum and anxiety with each athlete’s performance. In the end, it was William Bowen that laid down an unheard of 8.26, pretty much walking away with the title of fastest man in the history of the sport. Simply amazing.
The next race that sticks out in my mind is the season finale Grand Champion’s race. There was so much build up to this event; so many questions to be answered, and this was the race that would do that. I remember calling the athlete introductions for this race and thinking to myself, ‘wow, this field is absolutely crazy.’ Conclusively, it was the veteran Michael Cheek who was smart enough to hold back in his 1000m to rest up for the 800m Grand Champion’s Finale, ultimately defeating the world’s best indoor skaters to become the NSC season three Grand Champion.
Finally, the 500m race of the final event of the season was perhaps the most impressive example of indoor racing I have ever witnessed. Typically, we see Bowen win the start and hold the lead from start to finish. Admittedly, as a racer, this a dominating fashion, and where you want to be. But as a spectator, it’s a little boring to witness. That said, this 500m was anything but boring. There was a ton of passing, sliding out, pushing, and everything else that makes you want to get out of your seat and lose your mind when watching a sprint final in the NSC. Jeremy Anderson, who is probably the best passer in the history of the sport at such high speeds, threw the nastiest bomb to come away with the victory over Bowen. It was a breathtaking performance.
NSC: Yes, the season finale was like you guys had saved the best for the last. But we know it doesn’t work that way. The athletes were just getting stronger and stronger, all season long. When you consider the field we finished the season with, who are the skaters you most enjoy watching?
Mantia: When it comes to passing, no other skater makes it look more effortless and fluid than Jeremy “The Hammering Husky” Anderson. By the way, don’t call him “The Stick”. That’s just wrong. He’s already got a nickname.
Another one is my good friend Michael Cheek. He has the an extremely impressive corner entry, which allows him to carry his speed better than any other skater in the league.
William Bowen has an acceleration that is absolutely second to none; an impressive combination of power and snap. Glad I didn’t have to face that this year.
As far as pure entertainment, I have never seen a skater please the crowd more than Justin Stelly. He is never afraid to throw the most outlandish passes or hawks at the line.
NSC: OK, you’ve been skating with those guys for years. Think about the new talent. When you consider the first year guys, who shows the most promise for next season?
Mantia: Donovan Sellers has some very impressive traits as an up and coming star in my opinion. Winning the flying time trial in event number three and constantly finding himself in the top five in that event proves he has the speed to race our top athletes, but just lacks some experience and perhaps the ability to take those “(Justin) Stelly-Style” risks.
NSC: Admittedly, we all think the Grand Champion races were the stand-out races of the season, from every event. How do you think the new Grand Champion qualification system worked this year?
Mantia: Well, you know, the NSC is constantly evolving and looking for that Nirvana between what’s best for the athletes and what’s best for the crowd, which isn’t always the easiest thing to find. That said though, the athletes seem more passionate than ever about our sport, which means they believe in what we’re doing and can see the big picture. All that to say, I think the new system worked very well and as of now, we’ll use the same format next season.
NSC: We know NSC was at Indoor Nationals this year scouting talent, so when are the trials for next year, season four going to happen?
Mantia: Glad you asked…co-owner and president of the NSC, Miguel Jose, was at Indoor Nationals, skating and scouting. He was watching all of the races and we’ve got our sights set on seeing some of the new talent come out for tryouts. The NSC prides itself on signing the sport’s top athletes, so we’re always scouting for the new talent looking to showcase their abilities in front of the masses. NSC Trials are November 3rd and 4th this year out at Pattison’s (Pattison’s West – official home rink of the league in Federal Way, Washington.) We’ll have info here on the website in the next two weeks or so. As soon as Miguel gets off his lazy…I mean, you know, real soon.
NSC: Cool man. And we’ll be ready to broadcast it live too, so everyone can see the excitement for themselves. So as we wrap this up, I just have to say, it’s not just a coincidence that the world’s fastest skaters are skating on Simmons Pro M1′s (the stock boot Mantia designed with legendary inline speed boot maker David Simmons). We know you put a lot of brain power into the design of that boot. Many are calling it the smartest boot in the sport. Is there anything new you’re working on with any skate manufacturers that you can tell us about?
Mantia: Thanks man. We really tried with that boot and I think we scored, big time. Just nailed it. I re-signed with Simmons/Schankel for 2 more years. I’ve built a really good relationship with Dave Simmons and would like to maintain that as long as I’m skating on inlines if possible. As of right now though, there’s not really anything top secret going on… or is there?
We guess we’ll wait and see. But if there’s one thing for certain, it’s that our sport and the world have not heard the last from Mantia. Not by a long shot. Olympic aspirations aside, we’re happy to have Mantia here with us helping to call the shots as NSC continues to grow and expand.
All of us here at NSC wish all of our NSC skaters, and all of the nation’s best amateurs, the best of luck this week as they hit the track in Colorado Springs.