1st African-American woman on U.S. Olympic Speed Skating Team

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MILWAUKEE, WI - JANUARY 05: Erin Jackson competes in the Ladies 500 meter event during the Long Track Speed Skating Olympic Trials at the Pettit National Ice Center on January 5, 2018 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

Who is Erin Jackson?

Erin Jackson surprised herself and almost everyone else at the U.S. Olympic Speed Skating Trials, becoming an Olympian after just four months on ice.

Coming from inline skating, Jackson qualified in the 500m by finishing third.

The 25-year-old from Ocala, Fla. went 39.22 in her first heat. She was even better in her second run, going 39.04.

The 2018 PyeongChang Winter Games will be Jackson’s first Olympics. “I really wasn’t expecting any of this, just coming in as a newbie, just trying to do the best I can,” she said, smiling. “I still don’t even know.”

Jackson becomes the third black athlete to make the U.S. Olympic speed skating team. She joins fellow long-tracker Shani Davis and short-tracker Maame Biney, who is originally from Ghana.

Jackson is a former University of Florida materials science and engineering student and roller derby player for the Ocala Cannibals and Jacksonville RollerGirls. “A couple weeks ago, I was still in the 40s,” Jackson said. “I think I hadn’t even broken 40 [seconds]yet, so it’s all happened really fast.”

“She’s improving dramatically every time she steps on that ice,” 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.”

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

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