Erin Jackson captured gold in the women's 500-meter speedskating event Sunday, becoming the first American to medal in an individual speedskating race in years and the first Black woman to win an Olympic medal in the sport.
"I wish I could describe how I feel," Jackson, 29, said after winning. "It is amazing. This medal means so much."
It's a remarkable achievement in a sport that Jackson is relatively new at. An inline skater since childhood, Jackson dominated the rink as a 12-time inline World Championship medalist and a 47-time inline national champion. She transitioned to skating on ice in 2017, and after just four months of training, she qualified for the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics.
Though she entered the Beijing Winter Olympic trials with a world No. 1 ranking, Jackson, who is from Ocala, Florida, initially failed to qualify for the 500-meter event in early January after nearly falling. She ended up in third place, one short of qualification.
Then her teammate Brittany Bowe — who excels in the 1,000-meter and 1,500-meter races — dropped out of the 500-meter after coming first in the trials, making way for Jackson to compete. Bowe was eventually allowed to compete in the 500-meter speedskating event in Beijing after Team USA was granted a third spot in the competition.
"Definitely not the way I imagined qualifying for my second Olympic team... but I guess I had to one-up my story from the 2018 Trials," Jackson tweeted at the time, thanking Bowe.
Jackson showed her dominance in the race Sunday with a time of 37.04 seconds, beating out Japan's Miho Takagi by 0.08 seconds. Angelina Golikova of the Russian Olympic Committee came in third place.
"It has been a tough couple of years and a tough beginning for this year," Jackson said after the race. "For this to come around like this, I am so happy."