Erin Jackson: Here’s Why Her Gold Medal Win Was Special

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The Winter Olympics is predominantly white and efforts by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to diversify the sport haven’t borne fruit. It’s a mindboggling outcome even to Erin Jackson who, in 2022, said, doesn’t match the era and time we’re living in. 

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The fact that she’s the first black woman to win a gold medal at the event also leaves her with less to say. Simply put, she thinks it’s unacceptable and something has to be done. How did she get into speedskating? Here’s her journey.

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Erin Jackson’s Start

Jackson started as an artistic skater in her home in Ocala, Florida. With figure skating, which is artistic skating, you have to pay attention to your moves and create perfect routines. 

However, Jackson was more focused on moving with speed which is how Renee Hildebrand, a former inline speed skater spotted her. 

Jackson credits Hildebrand for preparing her to compete at the highest level possible. By the time she was 10, Jackson was training alongside other Hildebrand-trained athletes who had already won medals at the World Championships. 

Within the next five years, Jackson won her first inline world title and was the Most Valuable Player (MVP) at the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA), as part of Jacksonville RollerGirls.

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Transitioning to Speed Skating

It was all good and fun in high school, accumulating numerous awards in inline skating. However, if Erin Jackson was to go further and compete internationally, she needed to pivot. And that’s what she did and shifted to speed skating. 

Before she pursued it, Jackson studied and graduated a cum laude from the University of Florida with a degree in engineering & materials science. She wants to further that with a Master’s Degree in Materials Science and work in biomedical engineering. 

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That said, her desire to compete at the Olympics never went away. She later accepted an invitation from the United States Speedskating Scouts. In 2016, she got her first ice skating experience and was convinced that this was her path.

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The Olympics Journey

The transition was a huge learning curve for her, one that saw her finish in the 24th position in the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. This performance encouraged her to keep doing what she was doing. 

From there, she focused on the 500m and accumulated multiple victories, through which she made history by becoming the first black American woman to win a race and a gold medal in the speed skating World Cup.

During the U.S. trials for the 2022 Winter Olympics, she nearly missed out after a slip, but Brittany Bowe offered her a spot. 

It paid off because, at the Olympics Winter Games Beijing 2022, Erin Jackson became the first American since Bonnie Blair to win a gold medal in the event. Even bigger than that, she was the first black woman to win an individual medal at the Winter Olympics. 

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Feeling Unnoticed

After the Olympics, Erin said that “she was forgotten” because people moved on. The other thing she pointed out was that little changed after her win and pointed to the cost and little exposure as reasons for it. 

Whereas other athletes get sponsors and brands lining up after a huge win in the Olympics, Jackson hasn’t had that happening to her. By 2022, she hadn’t gotten any new sponsors. 

Despite that, Erin’s momentum of success continued. At the 2023 Pan American Games, she won gold in the 500-meter and a bronze medal in the 200-meter time trial. At the 2024 Four Continents Championships in Salt Lake City.

The Winter Olympics seem like a tough nut to crack when it comes to diversity but athletes like Erin Jackson continuously show that black athletes can perform well in this discipline.

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