Special coverage: Day Three
U.S. Women Win Relay Gold
Joey Mantia (left) congratulates gold medalist Kalon Dobbin after the 500 meters. (Photo: Anyang Inline)
The U.S. women's team collected its first gold medal of the 2006 World Championships today while USA's Joey Mantia experienced a second day of frustration.
The women's gold came in the hard-fought 3000-meter relay, which emerged as a battle between the USA, Colombia, Italy and South Korea.
On the last of 15 laps around the 200-meter banked oval, the Korean team was in the lead. But then USA's Jessica Smith mounted a furious charge to take the lead.
Colombia's Cecilia Baena tried to catch Smith but ended up a couple feet back to claim the silver.
The other members of the USA relay team were Sara Sayasane, who finished fifth in Saturday's 300 meters, and Brittany Bowe, who so far is struggling in her first year in the adult (senior) division at Worlds.
The U.S. team won medals in three of the four divisions of today's relay. The junior women (under 18) took the silver and the junior men took the bronze. It was the second medal of the competition for the junior women and the first for the men.
The U.S. men made the finals in the 3000-meter relay and were considered one of the contenders for the gold. But in the finals, Dane Lewis and Jonathan Garcia (not Mantia, as earlier reported) botched a tag, resulting in the team's disqualification.
That was the latest frustration for Mantia, who earlier in the day was cut from the field for the finals of the 500 meters, an event he won last year at Worlds.
The 20-year-old from Ocala, Fla., had appeared originally on the list of qualifiers for the finals. In the semi-final heat, he finished second, only seven-hundredths of a second behind the ultimate gold medalist, New Zealand's Kalon Dobbin.
But shortly before the rain-delayed finals took place, race officials convened a meeting and after reviewing videotapes, dropped Mantia to fourth place in his semifinal; thus, dropping him from the field for the finals.
(Update: An Italian race official was reportedly behind the move to bump Mantia from the final. The official reportedly lodged a protest accusing Mantia of a rules violation in his semifinal. This could have helped Italy's Luca Presti win a berth in the finals. But Presti only managed a fourth place finish in the semi, which wasn't good enough to advance to the finals. However, Mantia's disqualification aided Taipei's Wei Lin Lo, who finished third in the semi. With Mantia out, Lo moved up to second place in the semi; thereby advanced to the final, where he won the bronze.)
The decision must have been a particularly bitter pill for Mantia, coming a day after officials failed to award him the gold medal despite blatant interference by the Colombian team. (See story.)
The chief troublemaker in yesterday's race, Colombia's Jorge Cifuentes, got in trouble again today. He qualified for today's 500-meter semifinal (with a time seven-hundredths of a second faster than Mantia's). And he finished third in the race. But he was stripped of the bronze after officials determined that he had interfered with another racer.
After three days of racing, the inline speed skating landscape appears to have shifted this year. For the first time, South Korea has emerged as a powerhouse. With 16 medals so far, including six golds, it is solidly in second place. Meanwhile, perennial challenger Italy seems to be falling off the map. So far, it has won only five medals, none of them gold.
The championships take a day off tomorrow and resume Wednesday with the start of the road events.