OlympicHopefuMannozziRacewalking hopeful Michael Mannozzi might seem like a duck out of water while running in today’s Panerathon 10K at the Covelli Centre.

The Boardman resident and 2005 Spartan graduate views the breast cancer fundraiser as another way to train while casting his eye toward the 2016 and 2020 Olympic Games.

“The Panerathon will be the last of my three running events this season,” he said. “I will then be able to concentrate on my last four racewalking events that will take me to the end of November when I plan on competing in the 50K national championships in Coconut Creek, Fla.

“I currently train by walking 45-50 miles a week; however, to be in peak fitness shape for an event, especially the national championships, I will need to kick that up to over 70 miles a week.”

Racewalking is a long-distance foot race in which the walker must have one foot in contact with the ground at all times. Olympic racewalking events include a 20K (12.4 miles) and a 50K (31 miles), the latter of which Mannozzi feels is his best route to either Rio de Janeiro in 2016 or the 2020 summer games. The Mahoning Valley has never had a racewalker make the Olympic games.

Mannozzi was ranked sixth nationally in the 20K and ninth in the 50K a year ago and hopes to improve on both standings by the beginning of the year.

A wrestler at Boardman, he began racewalking in 2008. He now finds himself as one of the overall contenders for an Olympic berth.

He has been coached by Mike Rohl, the head men’s track coach at Mansfield University and has also been guided by Bob Gray, a marathon/racewalker from Eugene, Oregon who narrowly missed qualifying for the 1972 Olympic Summer Games.

“I was motivated at the chance to excel at an event, all the while embracing the challenge and an opportunity for success,” Mannozzi said. “My father [James] could not walk the last 10 years of his life due to multiple sclerosis so while my faith sustains me, my father and his physical struggles help keep me focused on just how fragile life can be and why nothing is promised to you along the way.”

Mannozzi, who works as a day camp counselor and also fills in at the D.D. and Velma Davis Family YMCA in Boardman, said it’s tough to balance work and training. Also, sponsors are critical. Mannozzi got a recent boost when Advanced Chiropractic and Rehab, Inc. agreed to sponsor his quest.

“I look forward to helping Michael achieve his goal.” Dr. Michael C. Lyons, DC of Advanced Chiropractic said. “By working with him weekly we can help to reduce stress injuries and improve muscle healing, giving him more opportunity to train.”

Mannozzi added that “Advanced Chiropractic has helped by diagnosing and helping improve parts of my body that I was experiencing problems with, which has varied from massage, stem and working on flexibility. I look forward to seeing improvements as a direct result of this treatment.”

An area of training where Mannozzi feels deficient, however, is training with an elite group of walkers and a specialized coach. He also wants to work out in higher elevation areas.

“You need to be able to get adjusted to that type of climate and landscape so it is really important to be able to train at the Olympic Training Center, which is located in Colorado Springs,” he said. “Becoming a racewalker has been a God-send for me. It has also been a humbling experience as well.

“The competition has been so tough, you get humbled rather quickly. You sacrifice quite a bit but it is well worth it in the end.”

Mannozzi said he always dreamed of being an Olympic athlete but never realized it was possible until he took up racewalking.

“I’m striving to become one of the best and an Olympian in this event,” he said. “Since more athletes do not make it than do, my one consolation is that I want to reach my full potential. I’m just being honest and hopeful and that is just another thing that drives me to be the best that I can be.”

Those interested in sponsoring Mannozzi can reach him on Facebook or by email at italianstallian05@hotmail.com.