Who is Erin Jackson?
Erin Jackson shocked even herself by making the U.S. Olympic speed skating team after only about four months in the sport. In doing so, Jackson became the first African-American woman to make a long track speed skating team.
Speed skating beginnings
Jackson’s quick success in speed skating is not completely surprising due to her history in inline skating.
“I’ve been an inline speed skater for 15 years,” Jackson told TeamUSA.org. “I came out to Salt Lake City for the first time in March, well, the end of February into March. Then I went back to inline for the summer and came back to Salt Lake in September, so it’s been about four months combined.”
Her interest was piqued in the sport when she tagged along with a friend to a speed skating training camp.
She first put on skates when she was eight years old as a member of a figure skating team in her hometown. Jackson was forced to quit after her coach left town to pursue her daughter's Olympic dreams. Even as a figure skater, Jackson had a desire to go fast. Soon after Jackson's mother, Rita, met a speed skating coach at a diner.
“I won some races at the party on my little artistic skates and soon began attending speed practices. Thirteen years later I’m still in love with the sport,” Jackson said to wftda.com.
Jackson turned heads at the 2018 U.S. Olympic Speed Skating Trials, making the team after only about four months competing.
“I really wasn’t expecting any of this, just coming in as a newbie, just trying to do the best I can,” Jackson said after the race. “A couple weeks ago, I was still in the 40s. I think I hadn’t even broken 40 [seconds] yet, so it’s all happened really fast.”
The 2018 PyeongChang Winter Games will be Jackson’s first Olympics.
Despite being new to speed skating, Jackson was heavily decorated during her time as an inline skater. Throuhgout her career, Jackson earned 11 world medals and 47 national championships. She has also been named the U.S. Olympic Committe Female Athlete of the Year for Roller Sports three times.
Jackson qualified in the 500m by finishing third behind Brittany Bowe and Heather Bergsma. She finished in 39.22 in her first race, but was even faster in her second race, going 39.04.
Jackson is the first African-American women to make the U.S. Olympic speed skating team. She joins long track teammate Shani Davis and short-tracker Maame Biney as the only three black athletes to represent the United States in long or short track speed skating.
"People gravitiate toward people who look like them, and I guess there aren't a lot of people who look like me in this sport. So now when others see me they might think, 'Oh, I can do this too.' I'm definitely embracing it," Jackson said to NBC Olympic Research.
Jackson is the latest inline skater to make the jump to speed skating. Growing up, Jackson competed with and against fellow Olympians Joey Mantia and Brittany Bowe. All three hail from Central Florida.
“My coach Renee Hildebrand is a pretty famous coach. She has had a lot of athletes who have made it to the Olympic level so a lot of us are from Ocala, Florida where Renee Hildebrand is from. She has raised a lot of us from the ground up. I owe a lot to her," Jackson told TeamUSA.org
“She’s improving dramatically every time she steps on that ice,” teammate Brittany Bowe said. “She’s at a point now where she can make those huge gains, so to see that two races in a row out here when the pressure is the highest is really promising for her and the sprint program for Team USA.”
Off the ice
In 2015, Jackson earned a degree in materials science and engineering from the University of Florida.
“I plan on returning to school for a Master’s Degree in Materials Science,” Jackson said to wftda.com.
In college, Jackson began participating in roller derby as well inline racing.