I,f you haven’t been tuning in to the Winter Olympics, you may have missed Erin Jackson’s fantastic 500m speed skating win. Happening during Black History Month, Jackson’s victory became a piece of history as she is the first Black woman to win a solo medal in Olympic speed skating.
Jackson tweeted it will take some time to process being an Olympic Champion. She deserves all the time and more after an amazing race and historic win. She is also the first Black woman to win an individual World Cup race, as reported by NBC Sports.
According to CNN, Jackson is also the first American woman in nearly 30 years to take home gold in the event. After her win, Jackson gave a shout-out to her coach and family and her teammate Brittany Bowe.
Jackson almost missed the 2022 Winter Olympics when she slipped during the trials.
Bowe said no one deserved to be on the team more than Jackson during an interview last month and gave up her spot.
“First and foremost, Erin has earned her right to be on this 500-meter team,” Bowe said. “She’s ranked number one in the world, and no one more deserving than her to get an opportunity to bring Team USA home a medal.”
Ahead of the tryouts for the U.S. team, Jackson was a favorite to win the Olympic gold after her winning performance at the 500m in the World Cup.
Bowe’s gesture certainly paid off with Jackson proving why she deserved to skate on the big rink. Bowe was ultimately able to compete in Beijing, finishing in 16th place in Sunday’s race.
Jackson’s win comes 20 years after Vonetta Flowers became the first Black athlete to win gold at the Winter Olympics. Flowers competed in the first women’s bobsled event in 2002.
In a profile of the U.S. Bobsled Team, the New York Times noted that in the 20 years since Flowers’ historic victory, Black women now dominate the American team. Almost all of the 2022 Women’s bobsled team are Black women.
Years earlier, 80s icon Debi Thomas placed third in figure skating at the 1988 Winter Olympics, making her the first Black American to win a medal at the event. Thomas paved the way for generations at the Winter Games.
And Black athletes are still breaking barriers at the Winter Olympics. Former bobsledder Kelly Curtis became the first Black athlete to represent Team USA in the skeleton at the 2022 Winter Olympics.
Athletes like Jackson and Curtis help a new generation of athletes learn about the possibilities beyond traditional sports for Black youth.
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