A 29-year-old Florida native and lifelong rollerblader became the first Black woman to win Team USA a gold medal in speed skating Sunday.
Erin Jackson earned her first Olympic medal in the women’s 500- meter speed skating race at the Beijing Games, an event Team USA has not won since 1994. Jackson finished her lap in a mere 37.04 seconds.
It may seem unlikely that a skater who spent her life on rollerblades would be an Olympian on the ice, but Jackson quickly became a gold medal favorite. She made her Olympic debut four years ago in Pyeongchang, having switched to ice skating roughly a year earlier.
She was the first Black woman to make it on to Team USA as a speed skater.
Despite being ranked No. 1 in the world, Jackson’s return to the Olympics was not guaranteed. She stumbled during the Olympic trials, putting a hiccup in her chase for gold.
Brittany Bowe, a fellow skater and good friend, offered Jackson her spot in Beijing, calling it “the right thing to do.”
“There’s not a doubt in my mind that she wouldn’t do the same thing for me,” Bowe told NBC Sports last month.
Jackson said she lost sleep over her mistake at the Olympic trials and said it was devastating to have potentially lost out on a chance to bring home a medal.
“Just for her to do something like this for me, it’s amazing,” Jackson said at the time. “I’m just incredibly grateful. I’m really humbled, and she’s just an amazing person.”