Erin Jackson becomes the first Black woman to win a gold medal in speed skating
The 29-year-old from Ocala, Florida has only been speed skating for five years.
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American speed skater Erin Jackson made history during the 2022 Winter Olympics.
On Feb. 13, she became the first Black woman to win gold in a solo speed skating event, completing the 500-meters in just 37.04 seconds. She is also the first U.S. women’s speed skater to win gold since Bonnie Blair won in 1994.
Jackson started speed skating in late 2017. Just a few months later, she qualified for and competed in the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang. She came in 24th place in the 500-meter race.
Jackson is by no means a stranger to skating, however. She started roller skating at a young age and competed as an inline skater. Before switching to the ice, she won 12 world championship medals and 47 national titles.
She also didn’t make it to this year’s Olympics though. At the time of the Olympic qualifying event, the U.S. only had two spots it could fill. Due to a slip during the 500-meter, Jackson came in third. Her friend and teammate, Brittany Bowe, gave up her spot in the event so that Jackson could compete. Bowe told NBC Olympics. “Right after the race, I knew that if it came down to me relinquishing my spot for her to be named on the team, I would do that because she deserves it.”
Bowe was already going to the Olympics in two other speed skating events: the 1,000-meter and 1,500-meter. She was also able to compete in the 500-meter event when reshuffling gave the U.S. another spot to fill. Her kindness allowed both friends to come home as Olympic medalists.
Due to COVID protocols, Jackson had to put on her own medal at the medal ceremony. She later shared on Twitter that she accidentally put it on backward.
Cried so much that I put on my medal backward… then cried some more 😭🥇🇺🇸 pic.twitter.com/deEgHSFrHU— Erin Jackson (@ErinJackson480) February 14, 2022
Thousands of people responded to the tweet with words of support and assertions that forward or backward, her medal was still gold.
So did I Ms Erin Jackson, so did I. I am so very proud of you and your achievement, winning your historical GOLD 🥇 and stamping your name in Olympic Games History. What a race, what a win and to think you made Black History during Black History Month.— Ronnie Price (@redwardprice719) February 14, 2022
Congratulations!!! Since it’s YOUR GOLD MEDAL 🥇, you wear it anyway you want! We are so proud of you!— Kari, just Kari✌🏽🤪🤟🏾 (@KoolNurd) February 14, 2022
You are an inspiration to all the little Black girls that love to ice skate and love to speed! Man I would love to have seen you do this back in the 70s or 80s. #RepresentationMatters— 🏳️🌈 DJ Lena (@DJ_Lena) February 14, 2022
But this was well worth the wait. CONGRATS!!!
When asked by Craig Melvin of NBC News if she will be competing in the 2026 Winter Games, Jackson said, “Yeah. I don’t think I can be done yet. I mean, I’m just starting to figure things out. It’s only been like a year-and-a-half of things feeling good on the ice. So I want at least four more.”
In the same interview, she explained what she hopes her being the first Black woman to win this event means to potential speed skaters.
“I just hope it sparks something. Like a young Black girl saw my race and she’s like ‘oh well maybe I should try this.’ And I think that would be amazing, even if it was just one person. You know, getting someone else out there to skate with me,” she said.