Athlete Spotlight: Nicole LaMantia

Posted 3/2/2017 in Athlete Spotlight | 3347 view(s) | 0 comment(s)

The Making of a World Champion 

 By Stephen Miwa 

No excuses. 

Nicole LaMantia has taken the motto of her club hockey team, the Chicago Mission, to heart and it has paid off in ways that most athletes only dream of, being a world champion.  The Mission, is a Chicago Tier 1 AAA Hockey program, housing some of the nation’s best female hockey players. Through all the work that Nicole has put in throughout the years, she has accomplished many things, but her crowning achievement came this year when she won gold at the U18 World Championships in Zlin, Czech Republic.  However, winning the World Championship was not the only goal Nicole had in mind as she ended her time with the U18 National Team and started to set her sights on the future.

With a family background in hockey, it only seems fitting that when she stepped onto the ice, Nicole would be a natural.  At the age of three, Nicole started learning the basics of hockey, and having a brother who is close in age and playing hockey as well fueled a friendly rivalry between the two.  She decided to train and play on boys’ teams until she was 13 so that she could be better prepared for the next level on the ladies’ side.  This decision was a good one.  She quickly moved to the top ranks on the ladies’ side, and other opportunities started to present themselves.  Nicole was invited to August Fest Camp with a chance to get onto the U18 team, but did not make the cut.  The coaches there gave her a few things to work on until the next camp in November where they would be making selections on who would represent the U18 Women’s US National Team in the Czech Republic.

“There was nothing that was going to get in the way of my training and pushing myself to be on the team,” Nicole says.  She meant it.  Traveling 45 minutes one way to do off-ice workouts at The Functional Athlete with Steve Mologousis meant waking up well before dawn some days.

 “There was not a chance that I was not going to be there to do my workout.” Nicole continues, “There was not a chance I was going to skip a rep.  Just coming off getting cut so many times; I wasn’t going to get cut this time.” 

Even while on family vacation, Nicole still got in her workouts because she was not going to let that be an excuse for not making the team. 

All of this training and hard work paid off as Nicole was selected as part of the 22-person team who would represent the United States at the U18 World Championships.  The selection brought with it a wave of joy and relief, but it also brought with it the pressure and nerves of playing for your country.  A week before leaving for Zlin, the team went to Newark, New Jersey for a week of practice and preparation for the tournament.  During that week, a couple members of the U22 team also came out to give guidance and advice to the younger players from their past experiences at the event.  Upon arriving in Zlin, Czech Republic the nerves really started to set in.

 “I knew most of the girls, but I didn’t know what it meant to wear the {National Team} jersey.  I couldn’t believe it was real.” 

As the games started, the nerves started to go away because hockey instincts took over, but when the championship game approached they came right back.  Prior to the gold medal game, Nicole received a message from a U22 player wishing her good luck and letting her know to just leave it on the ice.  She and the rest of Team USA did that en route to a 3-1 win against Canada.

 “It was a surreal moment,” Nicole says in regards to winning the championship.   There was plenty of celebration including the post-win dogpile, the United States National Anthem playing while receiving the gold medals, and the post-championship party.

Achieve met Nicole last year when she was seeking out additional fine-tuning for her body. Oft times, hockey players suffer from lower back stress due to the positioning of skating as well as the amount of rotational force from shooting.

 “We knew when she walked in that she would be one of our hardest working athletes at the clinic”, stated Gina Pongetti, Clinic Co-owner and Sports Medicine Director.  “Her vision was and is sharp and her commitment to her rehab and training was unwavering.  We addressed all aspects of her fitness- from flexibility to joint mobility, strength, core stability, the timing of muscle activation, posture and more.”

Many elite adolescent and professional athletes call Achieve their sports medicine team, so the staff is well aware of the commitment to excellence- including the athlete, family, balancing schoolwork, injury prevention, rehabilitation with PT, rest, and more. Nicole’s program added yet more time to her week with another piece of the puzzle to time-manage, but it made a world of difference in her health and confidence. 

Even though Nicole’s time on the U18 National Team is over, she can now look forward towards the future.  While deciding which college she would attend, she wanted to keep her family in mind because of everything they have done to help her get to this point.  Even though Nicole was the one putting in the work on and off the ice, it was only made possible due to all the time, money, and effort that her parents, Anthony and Gina, have put in throughout the years.

 “Hockey is not like a regular sport.  It is a huge commitment,” says Nicole. 

This commitment has involved driving to Detroit regularly on weekends, spending thousands of dollars a year on equipment and training, and taking the time to travel to the Czech Republic to watch Nicole play in the World Championships.  All of these sacrifices were taken into account as she made her decision to go to the University of Wisconsin.

Nicole elaborates, “Wisconsin won me over because it is an elite women’s hockey program with academic success, and my parents and grandparents can be a part of my college hockey experience.”

While there is women’s hockey in the Olympics, Nicole is not thinking about that just yet.

“My ultimate goal is to go to Wisconsin and succeed there.”  She continues, “{T}hen I will try to make the Senior National Team if that’s an option.” 

Knowing that there are some players on the Senior National Team that have attended the University of Wisconsin should come as encouragement and motivation for Nicole to continue pushing towards that goal, but in the end, it will come down to Nicole and her “no excuses” attitude to maximize every opportunity that her hard work has afforded to her.  Expect to hear the name “Nicole LaMantia” associated with championship winning teams again down the road.  She sure does.


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