Speed Skater Erin Jackson Makes Olympic History Just 6 Years After First Stepping on the Ice

Speed Skater Erin Jackson Makes Olympic History Just 6 Years After First Stepping on the Ice

by Sue Jones
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It’s been a sharp shot to the top for speed skater Erin Jackson: Just six years after she hit the ice for the first time, she became an Olympic champion in the sport.

On February 13, Jackson earned a first-place finish in the 500-meter speed skating event at the 2022 Winter Olympics with a time of 37.04. Japan’s Takagi Miho took silver with a time of 37.12, and Angelina Golikova of the Russian Olympic Committee finished in 37.21 to win bronze.

With her performance, Jackson became the first Black woman to win a gold medal in an individual event for Team USA at the Winter Games, NBC reports.

“Hopefully it has an effect and we can see more minorities, especially in the USA, getting out and trying some of these winter sports,” Jackson told NBC. “And I just always hope to be a good example, especially with helping kids see they don’t have to just choose one between school and sport.”

A gold-medal favorite going into the Beijing Olympic qualifications, Jackson shot to the top of her sport quickly. She started inline skating at the age of 10 and soon became a dominant force: Jackson racked up 12 medals at the world championships and 47 national titles, according to the International Olympic Committee (IOC). But inline skating was not an Olympic sport, and she wanted to compete at that level, Sports Illustrated reports. So in 2016, she put on a pair of skates and hit the ice for the first time. (Watch her first hesitant steps on the ice here, in a video she shared on Instagram commemorating the big day.)

At first, those steps on the ice were “not very pretty,” as she told the IOC. The movement driving ice skating was different than with inline—it needs to come from the hips rather than the legs, according to Sports Illustrated. But she stuck with it, and just months later, she reached the Olympic trials for PyeongChang. She placed third in the trials, securing her spot on the 2018 Olympic team.

Leading up to the Beijing Games, Jackson was ranked No. 1 in the world. But a slip on the ice during the trials cost her a spot on Team USA—until teammate and friend Brittany Bowe (another former inline skater) gave up her qualifying spot in the 500 meters to Jackson. (Bowe already had qualifications in longer events.)

“It was not a difficult decision to make,” Bowe told SELF. “We only get one shot to make the Olympic team, and I feel really blessed that I’m in the position to give her the shot to compete in her best event.”

After the trials, Jackson tweeted that it was an act she’d never forget, and that she’d be “the loudest in the oval cheering” for Bowe in her 1,000 and 1,500-meter Olympic events.

Following the 500 meters, though, it was Bowe who embraced and congratulated Jackson as the winner.

“It’s been a wild ride,” Jackson said to the Associated Press, “but that makes it even sweeter.”


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