BEIJING — Erin Jackson has never viewed herself as some sort of trailblazer. She just likes to skate really, really fast, whether it’s on wheels or blades.
Yet the 29-year-old from balmy Ocala, Florida, knew this moment was special, her chance to really make an impact on the generations that follow.
She’ll forever be known as the first Black woman to win a speedskating medal at the Winter Olympics — and a gold one, at that.
“Hopefully, this has an effect,” Jackson said. “Hopefully, we’ll see more minorities, especially in the USA, getting out and trying these winter sports.”
Former Inline Skater
Jackson won the 500 meters Sunday with a time of 37.04 seconds, giving the American speedskating program its first medal of the Beijing Games and first individual medal since 2010.
But this was much more than a needed boost to a sport that has produced more medals than any other for the U.S. in the history of the Winter Games.
The 29-year-old Jackson, a former inline skater who switched to the ice shortly before the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics, joined fellow American Shani Davis as the only Black athletes to win long-track speedskating medals at the Olympics.
Now, she wants others to follow their path into a sport that draws scant attention in the United States.
“I just hope it will do something for the sport,” she said. “I always try to be a good example.”
The silver went to Miho Takagi of Japan, while Angelina Golikova of the Russian team took the bronze.
Teammate Gave Jackson Her Olympic Spot
Jackson’s gold came after she slipped at the U.S. trials and shockingly finished third, putting her spot on the Olympic team in jeopardy.
But teammate Brittany Bowe, another Ocala skater who finished first at the trials, gave up her spot in the 500 to ensure Jackson would get to compete in Beijing.
“She made a really big sacrifice for me,” Jackson said. “I’ll be grateful to her forever.”
As it turned out, the Americans received a third slot in the 500 when the final allocations were made, so Bowe got to skate as well. She finished 16th.
The two close friends embraced after Jackson clinched the gold.
“She hugged me and we cried,” the winner said. “She said she’s really proud of me and I said a lot of thank yous.”
Jackson skated in the next-to-last of 15 pairs with Takagi’s time of 37.12 — set about a half-hour earlier in the fourth pairing — in her sights.
She didn’t think at all about that slip at the U.S. trials.
“It’s not something to really focus on,” Jackson said. “That was a fluke.”
Controversial Russian Leads Women’s Figure Skating
Kamila Valieva has topped the leaderboard at the end of the short program in women’s individual single skating. The 15-year-old Russian at the center of the latest Olympic doping controversy is primed to succeed in her pursuit of another gold medal.
Her score of 82.16 points put her in first place in the field of 30. Twenty-five skaters are moving on to Thursday’s free skate round. Valieva’s fellow Russian Anna Shcherbakova was in second, and Japan’s Kaori Sakamoto edged out another Russian for third.
It would have been 24, but the qualification rule was changed to advance one more person if Valieva made it to the next round.
Valieva tested positive in December for a banned heart medication, though the result only emerged last week, after her two brilliant performances in the team competition helped win gold for the Russian team.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled early Monday that Valieva should be allowed to compete in part because she is a minor, known as a “protected person,” and is subject to different rules from an adult athlete. But the decision from a three-person panel has been roundly criticized, including by others that performed before her Tuesday night.
US Men Take Pursuit Speedskating Bronze
The United States has won its second speedskating medal of the Beijing Olympics, taking the bronze in men’s team pursuit.
With 36-year-old Joey Mantia leading three American skaters through all eight laps, the U.S. denied Sven Kramer of the Netherlands his 10th career medal.
The U.S. finished in 3 minutes, 38.80 seconds, nearly 3 seconds ahead of the Dutch.
Also winning bronze with Mantia are Ethan Cepuran, Casey Dawson, and Emery Lehman. Cepuran skated in the semifinals, then was replaced by Mantia for the bronze-medal race.
Swiss Skier Wins Downhill, Shiffrin Is 18th
The only skier to beat Sofia Goggia in a downhill over the last two seasons beat Sofia Goggia again to win the Olympic gold medal.
Corinne Suter, a 27-year-old Swiss skier who injured both of her legs early in the season, edged Goggia by 0.16 seconds.
Goggia hurt her left knee about a month ago but still managed to take the lead by nearly half a second. She let out a lengthy roar after crossing the line and then kissed a television camera.
Goggia has dominated the downhill in recent seasons and would have been the favorite if not for getting injured during a super-G in Cortina d’Ampezzo less than a month ago. The 29-year-old Italian partially tore a ligament in her left knee and sustained a minor fracture in that leg, along with tendon damage.
Goggia had won the last eight World Cup downhills she finished, a streak that began in December 2020. But Suter won the last downhill race before the Olympics.
U.S. star Mikaela Shiffrin, who did not finish her opening runs in her initial two events, finished in 18th place, 2.49 behind Suter.