Speed skater Erin Jackson made history at the Olympic Winter Games in Beijing, China, becoming the first Black woman to win an individual gold medal Credit: U.S. Speedskating photo

With a victory in the 500 meters at the Olympic Winter Games in Beijing, Erin Jackson became the first Black woman to win individual gold at a Winter Olympics, the first Black woman to win a medal in speed skating, and the first American woman to win the 500 since Bonnie Blair in 1994. Her spectacular victory is all the more impressive because Jackson switched from inline skating to the ice less than five years ago.

The time since the Games has been busy, but Jackson has also been training for competition. “I still feel like I haven’t had a minute to really breathe and relax quite yet, but it’s not a big problem because we’ve still got another race to go in the season,” said Jackson, who is currently in the Netherlands for the World Cup Final.

Jackson, 29, moved to Salt Lake City for training in 2018. A Florida native and life-long athlete, Jackson saw some of her inline training mates switch to speed skating on ice in their late teens, but she felt it was something she was interested in doing.

“I really enjoyed inline skating and that was where I wanted to be,” said Jackson, who continued to train in inline and roller derby while attending University of Florida. “School has always been a priority.”
After graduating, she decided to give speed skating a try, and she earned a spot on the 2018 U.S. Olympic team after only four months of training on ice. Following those Games, Jackson decided she would give her all to the sport.

“It was a good challenge for me,” said Jackson. “That was pretty much the whole thing that’s been motivating me since I got on the ice is trying to figure it out and trying to get better at it because it doesn’t feel like the skating I’ve grown up doing. I’ve been trying to get comfortable on the ice.”

While Jackson may still be striving for that comfort zone, she has found excellence and will continue to train, compete and improve. She hopes her gold medal will encourage girls and boys of color to not set limits on themselves.

“I hope to do a lot of outreach and let people see the possibilities,” said Jackson, who will be working with Edge Outdoors, an organization with the mission to encourage more women of color to engage in snow sports, on similar outreach in speed skating. “I want people to be inspired.”

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