The 2022 Winter Olympics officially gets underway Feb. 4 and continues through Feb. 20 in Beijing. And already there’s been a strange twist of events in the sport of speedskating.
Erin Jackson, the first African-American medalist in speedskating and ranked No. 1 in the world in the 500 meters, was recently eliminated when she slipped and finished third in the qualifying round event at the Winter Olympics.
Because the rules state that only the two top finishers count as those who will represent the team, it initially appeared that Jackson, who won a bronze medal in the 2018 Games and was the favorite to win gold this time around, had been eliminated.
Then, in a case of unprecedented sportsmanship, Jackson received a reprieve and second chance when her teammate and close friend Brittany Bowe exercised her position as the winner and relinquished her spot to Jackson. Jackson would have a chance to compete. Since Bowe finished first in the event, the rules allowed Jackson to secure the required second spot.
“Erin has earned her right to be on this 500-meter team,” said Bowe, who will be competing in the 1,000 and 1,500 and counts as a three-time Olympian.
“She is ranked No. 1 in the world and no one is more deserving than her to get an opportunity to bring Team USA a medal. It is my honor to give her that opportunity,” she said.
Jackson has a resume that represents one of the most impressive in the history of the sport but she struggled to find the appropriate words to express her joy.
“I am beyond grateful, humbled and just happy,” Jackson said. “I have grown up with Brittany and have known her my whole life. She has been a mentor and friend to me.”
Jackson has been competing in speedskating since the age of eight. She qualified for the World Games in 2017 in Wroclaw, Poland where she competed in inline speedskating in various distances on road and track. She also qualified to compete in the 500 meters long-track speedskating event at the 2018 Winter Olympics.
In November 2021, she won her first 500 meters speedskating World Cup races in Poland with two records making her the first African-American woman to win in the World Cup.