Black US Skater Who Almost Missed Olympic Qualification Wins Gold
Erin Jackson became became the first American woman since 1994 to notch an Olympic gold in speed skating, as well as the first black woman to win an individual medal in the discipline.
Jackson sat down beside the ice rink and just cried, for she deeply understood the weight of her first Olympic medal from Beijing 2022. The 29-year-old speed skater made history after winning the women's 500m at the National Speed Skating Oval here on Sunday.
She became the first American woman since 1994 to notch an Olympic gold in speed skating, as well as the first black woman to win an individual medal in the discipline at the Olympics. But Jackson knew that this was not everything.
"I cried immediately, it was just a big release of emotion. A lot of shock, a lot of relief and a lot of happiness," she said after the competition. "This medal means so much."
Jackson would have missed the Games, if it were not for her teammate Brittany Bowe. Bowe sacrificed her No.1 spot in 500m to Jackson who had slipped and finished third in the U.S. Olympic trials where the top two finishers secured tickets to Beijing.
The camaraderie and Olympic spirit seemed to bring some good karma. 33-year-old Bowe, the 1,000m and 1,500m specialist, was able to compete over the distance along with Jackson with an additional quota given to Team USA in reallocation, and finished 16th eventually.
"Our trials were just crazy. Although I was a part of the puzzle, I want this moment to be all about her. She skated the best 500m of her life to be Olympic champion. Words cannot explain how proud I am of her," Bowe said.
This is Jackson's second Olympics. She competed at PyeongChang 2018, finishing 24th, and the former inline skater began her competitive speed skating just in September 2017. Yet Jackson showed talent on the ice. Before entering the Olympic trials, she had won half of her eight World Cup races this season and set a new American record of 36.80 seconds in the 500m. Her sudden ascent turned her into a gold medal favorite at the Winter Olympics.
It shows "one of those stories that make the Olympic Games just that little more special than any other championships. It's about Olympic spirit," the International Skating Union wrote on its website.
"It's been a big roller coaster. There's been happiness, stress, happiness. It's been a wild ride but this makes it even sweeter," Jackson said of her winning the title.