Erin Jackson ended a drought of U.S. speedskating medals by taking first place within the ladies’s 500-meter race on Sunday, turning into the primary African American girl to win a medal within the sport. Additionally it is the primary medal for an American speedskater in Beijing and the primary particular person speedskating medal gained by an American because the 2010 Vancouver Video games.
“I feel I type of blacked out,” stated her teammate Brittany Bowe, who additionally competed within the race. “I screamed so loud I nearly handed out.”
Jackson, 29, was the dominant 500-meter skater on the earth this yr, profitable 4 of the eight races contested at World Cup occasions and profitable a medal in two others. Her time, 37.04 seconds, was the third-fastest 500 meters skated at a sea-level oval.
Shortly after her win, Jackson embraced her coach, Ryan Shimabukuro. “I stated the identical factor I stated to Joey Cheek in 2006,” Shimabukuro stated. “You’re an Olympic champion.”
Jackson’s gold in Beijing got here a bit of over 4 years after she transitioned to speedskating from in-line skating. She certified for the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics after solely 4 months of coaching, ending twenty fourth within the 500 meters there.
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Whereas she is way more snug on the ice than she was in 2018, Jackson continues to be comparatively new to the game. “I nonetheless have a little bit of concern on the subject of skating on the ice,” she stated in December. “I don’t have quite a lot of belief in myself and the blades, the ice and positively the folks round me.”
However any discomfort is masked by her explosive pace. The five hundred meters is the shortest race in speedskating: only one straightaway after which a lap across the oval. Jackson is an effective starter, however she is nice at sustaining her pace throughout the lap. She had the second-fastest opener and the quickest lap in profitable her medal.
“She has actually good method. She has actually, actually sturdy hips, and he or she retains them secure and regular when she skates,” stated Kimi Goetz, an American who completed 18th within the race.
Goetz added, “She is placing a lot energy into the ice, and he or she is simply tremendous quick.”
Miho Takagi of Japan gained the silver medal, and Angelina Golikova of Russia took the bronze.
Jackson is a part of a secure of American skaters, together with Bowe and Joey Mantia, who’re from the stunning speedskating hotbed of Ocala, Fla. Renee Hildebrand coached all in in-line skating earlier than they moved to the ice. It’s a well-worn path for American skaters, just like the Olympic medalists Chad Hedrick and Derek Parra, as a result of in-line is just not an Olympic sport.
Jackson’s participation in Beijing nearly ended earlier than it started. Throughout the Olympic trials in Milwaukee in January, she slipped in her race and completed third. With america having solely two entries within the 500 meters on the Olympics, Bowe, who is best on the 1,000 meters and 1,500 meters however completed first within the 500 meters on the trials, gave up her spot to Jackson.
Bowe’s sacrifice was in the end pointless: The US was later awarded a 3rd Olympic entry within the occasion after an advanced strategy of reallocating spots. She completed sixteenth.
Speedskating has traditionally produced probably the most medals on the Winter Olympics for america, however they’ve been exhausting to return by lately. People didn’t win any medals within the sport on the Sochi Video games in 2014, a debacle that devolved into arguments in regards to the fits worn by athletes and a high-altitude coaching camp earlier than the low-altitude Video games. The one speedskating medal that the People gained in 2018 was a bronze within the ladies’s crew pursuit.
“We’d like that dangerous,” Bowe stated of Jackson’s victory on Sunday.