Ocala Olympians return after historic wins in Beijing

Ocala honoring speed skaters with police escort, parade Saturday

ORLANDO, Fla. – Three Olympians from Ocala arrived back home to Florida on Thursday.

The Ocala Police Department helped escort the hometown athletes from their terminal at Orlando International Airport as well as a police escort to Ocala.

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Erin Jackson, Brittany Bowe and Joey Mantia all won medals at the 2022 Beijing Olympics in speed skating.

Jackson’s gold medal win made her the first Black American woman to win a medal in speed skating.

“Just not being afraid to go out there and try something new. You know, just going out and taking that first step that maybe you didn’t see yourself doing before,” Jackson said when asked how her win can help inspire others who don’t see people who look like them in their sport. “We are definitely proud Ocalans, you know it’s really nice to see the city get behind us.”

Brittany Bowe won bronze in Beijing. She said the support from home went a long way during the games.

“I don’t know if there were three other individuals in Beijing that had more support than we did. It was incredible to see everyone getting up before the sun was up to watch all of us race,” Bowe said.

Joey Mantia won bronze in the team event, after starting his skating career inside a roller rink in Marion County.

“It was felt across the ocean and it’s just a phenomenal experience to know that there are so many people rooting for you to do the best you can do,” Mantia said.

The trio has a busy schedule the next few days, with plans to visit their former schools and even a parade on Saturday.

“I’m really excited to visit my high school Trinity Catholic. It’s always nice to go back. I was there four years ago, and to be able to say, ‘Hi,’ and show my appreciation will be really fun,” Bowe said.

Ocala Police and the city’s parks department planned the police escort and parade to show support for the Olympians.

As for what’s next, Mantia and Bowe said they plan to take a break. Jackson said she’s planning on competing again in 2026.

About the Author:

Troy graduated from California State University Northridge with a Bachelor's Degree in Communication. He has reported on Mexican drug cartel violence on the El Paso/ Juarez border, nuclear testing facilities at the Idaho National Laboratory and severe Winter weather in Michigan.