CRESTVIEW — An Olympic medalist returned to Crestview this week, her hometown of 10 years.
Mayor David Cadle presented Mia Manganello with a key to the city at an April 24 ceremony at Warrior’s Hall. County Commissioner Graham Fountain also issued a proclamation declaring the day Mia Manganello Day.
“It’s overwhelming; it really is,” Manganello said. “You leave and you don’t really expect people to remember you, and then to come back and just be overwhelmed by their love and support, it’s magical. It’s better than having the medal.”
Manganello was part of the U.S. Women’s speed skating team that won the bronze medal in the team pursuit event at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang. It was the first medal for U.S. Women’s speed skating in 16 years.
It was an event the team wasn’t even supposed to compete in originally. The U.S. team was the last team out in qualifiers, but Russia was unable to field a team due to a doping scandal involving Russian athletes. Manganello and her teammates learned that they would be competing in the event just two weeks prior to the start of the Olympics.
“We had no idea how we would do because we’d never raced together,” Manganello said. “It helped having this mindset where we didn’t have expectations going to the line.”
Manganello, whose parents still live in the area and own a pizza restaurant in Valparaiso, gave an emotional speech crediting her parents and their sacrifices for her success.
“I really tried to hold it together, and then I turned around and saw my mom,” Manganello said after the event. “She cries. I cry. Done. Every time.”
It was an emotional return to the area for Manganello, where she spent the first years of her life before moving away at the age of 10 to jumpstart her skating career.
“To have each and every one of you here is absolutely amazing,” Manganello said, holding back tears as she addressed the audience.
Mayor Cadle introduced two of Manganello’s former elementary school teachers, Leigh Campbell and Jill Adams. Both still teach at Walker Elementary School.
“Community means so much to us. Where you start out really has a big place in your heart,” Cadle said.
After the event, Manganello stayed to take pictures and autograph flyers for fans. She said she enjoyed the idea of helping to inspire children and give them some extra encouragement to pursue their goals.
Manganello was surprised by how many people came out to support her, and was appreciative of the people from the town she once called home.
“It means the world to me to have their support. It’s just crazy how much love they have for me,” she said. “That love that you feel is something else, and I hope everybody in life feels that at some point.
“I’ll live wherever I end up, but Crestview will always be my home.”