The world’s top-ranked woman in 500-meter speed skating will represent the United States in the Olympics. Erin Jackson, 29, made history in 2018 when she became the first Black woman to make the United States Olympic squad in long-track speed skating only four months after starting the sport. In November, she made history by being the first African-American woman to win a World Cup speed skating event.
Given this backdrop, it should come as no surprise that she’ll be representing the United States in Beijing in February — yet the events that led her to this point were extraordinary.
Despite being the No. 1-ranked woman in the world in the 500m, Jackson finished third in qualifications, one position behind the required finish to qualify for the Olympics. This was until teammate Brittany Bowe declared that she would withdraw from the competition to allow Jackson to qualify and compete in Beijing.
“This isn’t just about me.” Bowe told the Wall Street Journal, “This is the Olympic Games.” “This is about Team USA, and it’s about allowing everyone to show off what they’ve got.” [Erin] has earned the right to be there, and I’m looking forward to seeing what she has planned for Beijing.”
Bowe will compete in her third Winter Olympics in the 1000m, for which she holds the world record, and the 1500m, for which she has the American record.
“Certainly not how I had envisioned qualifying for my second Olympic team…
“I’m immensely appreciative and humbled by @BrittanyBowe’s goodwill in assisting me in securing a chance to achieve my ambitions in #Beijing2022,” Jackson said on Twitter. “She’s a wonderful friend, teammate, and mentor, and this is a performance I’ll never forget.” You can bet I’ll be the most vociferous supporter of her in the oval.”
If Jackson wins, she will be the first American Black woman to win an Olympic medal in long-track speed skating.
It’s nice to get one of those reminders of what the Olympics are really (at least, purportedly) meant to be about — sportsmanship, representing one’s country, watching the best athletes in the world go head-to-head, and a sense of both national and international unity for a few moments — during a time when it’s almost too easy to be cynical about the Olympics as an institution and everything they’re willing to overlook in order to have The Games exactly as they