Minnesotan Giorgia Birkeland named to U.S. Olympic long track speedskating team
19-year-old from White Bear Lake won the women’s mass start at the U.S. Olympic trials, later added to team as a discretionary coaches’ pick. By Rachel Blount Star Tribune JANUARY 9, 2022
On the final day of the U.S. Olympic trials for long track speedskating, Minnesota’s Giorgia Birkeland made the Olympic team in the women’s mass start, while Erin Jackson — ranked No. 1 in the world in the 500 meters — was added to the roster thanks to another skater’s generosity.
Birkeland, of White Bear Lake, was the last skater named to the team Sunday night when US Speedskating announced the 12-athlete roster. The 19-year-old won the mass start Sunday afternoon at Pettit National Ice Center in Milwaukee, but she had to wait to learn whether she would be going to the Beijing Games. The race was the last in a series of three qualifiers to determine which athlete would receive the lone guaranteed Olympic spot in the event, and second place’s Mia Manganello Kilburg earned the berth by finishing with the most total points in the series.
Birkeland was later added to the team as a discretionary coaches’ pick. A top junior skater who was 11th overall at the 2020 world junior long track championships, Birkeland is the youngest of the five women on the Olympic long track team, with an eight-year gap between her and the next-youngest athlete.
Jackson was a heavy favorite to win the women’s 500 on Friday, but she slipped during the race and finished third behind Brittany Bowe and Kimi Goetz. Only the top two women at the trials were guaranteed to receive Olympic berths. Bowe, who also qualified for the Olympic team in the 1,000 and 1,500, said Sunday she would give her spot in the 500 to Jackson, a close friend.
Bowe still could race in the 500 in Beijing if the U.S. is awarded a third quota spot in the event.
On the men’s side, three-time Olympian Joey Mantia leads a group that also includes Ethan Cepuran, Casey Dawson, Austin Kleba, Emery Lehman, Jordan Stolz and Ian Quinn.
Rachel Blount is a sports reporter for the Star Tribune who covers a variety of topics, including the Olympics, Wild, college sports and horse racing. She has written extensively about Minnesota’s Olympic athletes and has covered pro and college hockey since joining the staff in 1990. firstname.lastname@example.org