Who is Erin Jackson? Meet the Olympian who broke the US gold medal drought in speed skating

After nearly missing the 2022 Olympics, Erin Jackson made history in the speed skating event in Beijing.

With her gold medal in the 500 meters on Sunday, Jackson became the first black woman to win a medal in speed skating. She is also the first American to win the event since Bonnie Blair won her third consecutive gold medal in 1994.

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The competition was Jackson’s second Olympic race since becoming the first black woman to represent the United States in speed skating in Pyeongchang. Although she didn’t start playing the sport in 2017, she finished 24th at the 2018 Olympics. She competed in several roller derby championships during her college career at the University of Florida.

Jackson’s trip to Beijing was complicated. She lost her balance and nearly fell during Olympic qualifying in January, earning her a third place finish. The top two secured berths at the 2022 Olympics in Beijing.

Officials didn’t give Jackson a re-skate in qualifying, which meant the four-time World Tour winner would miss the Olympics. However, after having a chat with Jackson after the competition, winner Brittany Bowe told Jackson she would give up her spot in the 500m so her teammate could compete in the 2022 Olympics.

“If it comes down to that, you can have my spot,” Bowe told Jackson after the qualifying race. “You are going to the Olympics if I have anything to do with it.”

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The duo, both from Ocala, Florida, have bonded over years of competition. Bowe had already qualified in the 1000m speed skating qualifier and decided to officially give up her spot in the 500m event. When the results came out that Jackson would be going to the Olympics, she couldn’t help but be emotional.

“It was the second time I got super emotional,” Jackson said, “but at least this time it was over the phone so no one could see it. It’s hard to imagine someone giving up on a Olympic spot for you, but Brittany is amazing and selfless and has such a team-centric attitude.

Bowe finally got a chance to compete in the 500m, as the United States earned an extra berth in the event. Bowe finished 16th, with his American teammate Kimi Goetz placing 18th among 30 competitors.

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Naomi C. Amerson