While the Super Bowl expectedly received all the attention in the sports world on February 13, the Winter Olympics provided a most historical moment.
Erin Jackson became the first Black woman to win a speed skating medal when she took home the Gold during the 500 meters speed skating event.
Jackson’s time of 37.04 seconds gave the American speed skating program its first medal at the Games in Beijing.
It marked the first individual medal by an American in a dozen years.
“Hopefully, this has an effect. Hopefully, we’ll see more minorities, especially in the U.S.A., getting out and trying these winter sports,” Jackson, 29, said.
A day after her historic medal victory, Jackson reflected on how she received her golden opportunity.
She noted that Team U.S.A. flag bearer Brittany Bowe, a childhood friend, surrendered her spot in the 500-meter so Jackson could take her place.
“She was just saying she’s so proud of me,” Jackson said of Bowe during a nationally televised interview.
“We did it,” she said. “Yeah, it was pretty wild.”
Bowe declared that Jackson had earned the right to compete.
“She’s ranked No. 1 in the world,” Bowe told NBC News. “No one is more deserving than [Jackson] to get an opportunity to bring Team U.S.A. home a medal.”
Hailing from Ocala, Florida, Jackson said she’s roller skated for as long as she could remember. She pursued inline speed skating in 2002, roller derby in 2012, and long-track speed skating in 2017.
A 2015 cum laude graduate of the University of Florida Honors Program, Jackson earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Materials Science & Engineering.
Just two years later, Jackson transitioned from inline skating to speed skating on ice, where she quickly qualified for the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
She also earned an AS in Computer Science from Salt Lake Community College in 2020 and continues her work toward an AS in Exercise Science/Kinesiology.
Jackson said she wants to inspire other African American girls.
“I just hope [the gold medal win] sparks something,” Jackson said. “Maybe a young Black girl saw my race or something, and she’s like, ‘Oh. Maybe I should try this.’ That would be amazing, even if it’s just one person.”