BEIJING — Erin Jackson has become the first Black woman to win a speedskating medal at the Winter Olympics.
One in gold, that is.
Jackson won the 500 metersSunday was a record-breaking 37.04 seconds. It gave American speedskating its first Beijing Games medal, and also the first individual gold since 2010.
However, this was not just a national pride moment.
Jackson, 29, a former inline skating skater, switched to speed skating shortly before 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics. She was joined by Shani Davis from the USA as one of the few Black Olympic long-track speedskating winners.
Miho Takagi from Japan won the silver medal, and Angelina Golikova (Russia) took home the bronze.
Jackson’s gold came after the native of balmy Ocala, Florida, slipped at the U.S. trials and shockingly finished third, putting her spot on the Olympic team in jeopardy.
Brittany Bowe (teammate) was first in the trials but she decided to give up her place to make sure Jackson got to skate in Beijing.
Bowe also got to skate, as the Americans had been allocated a third spot in the 500. She was 16th.
Jackson skated in the next-to-last of 15 pairs with Takagi’s time of 37.12 — set about a half-hour earlier in the fourth pairing — in her sights.
If she was still thinking about that slip at the U.S. trials, it sure didn’t show.
Jackson bolted off the line and was under Takagi’s time as she veered into the first turn. She kept up her speed through the crossing straight and into the final turn, swinging both arms furiously as she came to the finish of speedskating’s shortest race.
As soon as her skates crossed the line, Jackson’s head turned toward the scoreboard.
She broke into a big smile when she saw the “1” beside her name. Ryan Shimabukuro was her coach and laughed as he waded by with her, while slapping hands.
Jackson was confident that she would win bronze, even though there were still one pair left.
Within minutes, her gold medal was in her possession.
Jackson was seen sitting on the padding in the middle of the field, her head down.
It was clear that she also was reflecting on the remarkable journey.
Inline and roller skaters knew that she’d have to give up her blades in order to reach Olympic success.
She made the move just months prior to the Pyeongchang Olympics and was so quick at learning that she got a place on the U.S. Team. She placed 24th in the 500 but was clearly not able to tap into her true potential.
During the current World Cup season, Jackson suddenly emergedas one of the world’s best sprinters. She won four of eight 500 races — the first Black woman to earn one of those titles, as well — and came to the Olympics as one the favorites.
Beijing was a success, and she became the first American woman ever to be awarded an individual Olympic medal.
She took out an American flag, and she did a victory lap around Ice Ribbon oval with the stars and stripes flying above her head.