Brittany Bowe Gave Erin Jackson Her Olympic Spot. Now Both Are Leaving Beijing With Medals.
In January, the 500-meter event in the speed skating U.S. Olympic Trials ended with a movie-worthy twist: First-place winner Brittany Bowe, who qualified for the Olympics in the event with her victory, gave up her spot in Beijing so her friend and teammate Erin Jackson could go in her place. Jackson, who was ranked number one in the world going into the Trials, stumbled during the race and finished third.
Bowe’s act paved the way for Olympic history. On February 13, Jackson ended up winning the 500 meters in Beijing, becoming the first Black woman to earn an individual gold medal for Team USA in the Winter Games. And Bowe was one of the first people there to congratulate her afterward.
“I think it was mostly hugging and tears,” Jackson said to Today. “But yeah, she was just saying she’s so proud of me. And I was like, ‘We did it!’ Yeah, it was pretty wild.”
According to Bowe, there was no better way for it to have shaken out.
“Watching her have that gold medal hang around her neck brought me to the biggest tears I’ve cried in a long time,” Bowe said to Today. “This has been an honor.”
But the good vibes only continued: Bowe, who also clinched Olympic spots in the 1,000-meter and 1,500-meter events, ended up walking away with her own Olympic hardware too. Just four days after Jackson won gold, Bowe earned bronze in the 1,000 meters, her marquee event—in fact, Bowe is the current world record holder in it. With her third-place finish, Bowe became the first American woman to win a medal in the event in 20 years, according to NBC. It was the three-time Olympian’s first individual Olympic medal, after earning a bronze in the team pursuit at PyeongChang.
Jackson and Bowe’s story became one of the most heartwarming moments of the 2022 Beijing Games, an Olympics that started under the shadow of COVID-19 and has continued through a doping scandal and harsh media coverage of some of its stars. But the athletes’ story actually started well before the Trials. The two have known each other for years—both athletes grew up in Ocala, Florida, and competed on the same inline skating team. According to TIME, Jackson, who is four years younger than Bowe, looked up to her as a mentor. When Bowe transitioned to speed skating on the ice, Jackson followed soon after.
“She’s always been there for me, helping me out, even when I was just, like, the new kid back in Ocala,” Jackson said about Bowe in a video Team USA posted on Twitter. “She’s always been an awesome mentor and an amazing person. Someone who I can talk to if I need a friend or advice or anything. It’s an amazing relationship, and I’m just so grateful.”
For Jackson, the podium finishes for both made the whole thing extra sweet.
“For her to have my back in that moment, it was amazing,” Jackson said to Today. “And now I am so happy that she has a medal too.”
- My Bedtime Routine: Speed Skater Brittany Bowe on the High-Tech Sleep Solutions She Swears By
- Kelly Curtis Is Team USA’s First Black Athlete to Ever Compete in Olympic Skeleton
- Speed Skater Erin Jackson Makes Olympic History Just 6 Years After First Stepping on the Ice