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Five Florida Natives to Compete in 2018 Winter Olympics

Jan 21, 2018 09:55AM ● Published by Kevin

Ocala's own Brittany Bowe will compete on the long track in speedskating in this year's Winter Olympics.

The 2018 Winter Olympics are set to kick off on Feb. 9 in Pyeongchang County, South Korea, and continue on through Feb. 25. Competitors from around the world will join forces with other top-notch athletes from their countries in an attempt to bring home the gold in their designated sports.

While Team USA features popular stars like Shaun White (snowboarding) and Lindsey Vonn (alpine skiing), there are some recognizable names and faces right here from your home state of Florida. Four athletes will compete in longtrack speedskating: Ocala's Brittany Bowe, Erin Jackson and Joey Mantia, and Crestview's Mia Manganello. Meanwhile, Winter Park's Brandon Maxwell will put on the goalie pads on the ice to represent the U.S. in hockey.

Maxwell, 6-foot-1, 196 pounds, comes in as a first-time Olympian. The 26-year-old plays for BK Mlada Boleslav in the Czech Republic's most prestigious league, the Czech Extraliga, which was founded in 2014. The Winter Park native posted a .926 save percentage over nine games in the 2008 U18 Junior World Championships, going on to earn a bronze medal. He was drafted by the Colorado Avalanche in the sixth round of the 2009 NHL Draft.

This will be an interesting year for the ice hockey competition, as it will be the first time since 1998 that the NHL will not provide accommodations - including a break in the season for all teams during the Olympics - to allow its players to participate in the men's ice hockey tournament. The decision comes due to International Olympic Committee's refusal to cover insurance costs for NHL players who participate in the Games.

Manganello, a 5-foot-8, 28-year-old has dreamed of Olympic gold since she was just 13 years old. She started inline skating when she was eight years old and decided to make the switch to ice five years later.

After the 2010 Olympic Trials, she took a break from speedskating to race professionally in cycling until 2015. The Crestview native returned to the sport she loves in 2016. Her qualifying results for 2018 included a second-place finish in the Mass Start, as well as third-place finishes in the 1000m and 1500m.

Jackson, who attended the University of Florida and graduated in 2015, began her speedskating career at 10 years old. She's been with Team USA in three separate instances: 2008-10, 2012-14, and present. She holds world championships in the 500m (2008, 2009).

Florida's only returning Olympians are Ocala's Brittany Bowe and Joey Mantia. Bowe did not medal in 2014's Sochi Olympic Winter Games, but placed sixth in the Women's Team Pursuit, eighth in the 1000m, 13th in the 500m, and 14th in the 1500m. The 5-foot-7 former Florida Atlantic University basketball player will turn 30 on the second-to-last day of the 2018 Games. She started speedskating on the ice in 2010.

Mantia turns 32 just two days prior to the start of the 2018 Olympic Games. He did not medal in Sochi either, but placed seventh in Team Pursuit, 15th in the 1000m, and 22nd in the 1500m.

Information courtesy of TeamUSA.org.
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