Erin Jackson kicked off the international speed skating season with a 500-meter win at the World Cup stop in Tomaszow, Poland. The 29-year-old crossed the line in 37.613 seconds to win her first career World Cup race.
Japan’s Nao Kodaira, the reigning Olympic 500m champion, placed second (37.744), while Olga Fatkulina of Russia finished third (38.072). The other American in the field, 2018 Olympic medalist Brittany Bowe, placed eighth.
Jackson grew up in Ocala, Florida, where she competed in inline skating events. She racked up accomplishment after accomplishment as an inline skater, winning both national and world titles. She also competed in roller derby, playing for the Ocala Cannibals and Jacksonville RollerGirls.
Jackson wasn’t initially eager to try speed skating, but after tagging along to a training camp with a friend, she began skating on ice in 2017.
While she isn’t the first athlete to make the switch from inline – fellow Ocala residents and Olympians Joey Mantia and Bowe made the same transition – Jackson’s ascent was particularly speedy.
Her first competitive speed skating event? 2018 U.S. Olympic Trials.
“I still consider myself an inline skater,” Jackson said at the Team USA media summit in October. “It’ll always be my first love, but unfortunately inline speed skating is not an Olympic sport. To chase my Olympic dreams, I had to switch over to the ice.”
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Despite having only four cumulative months of on-ice training, Jackson finished third in the 500m at U.S. Olympic Trials – behind Bowe and Heather Bergsma. With the result, she became the first Black woman to make a U.S. Olympic long track speed skating team.
“I’m definitely happy to be a face that young girls or people of color can see,” Jackson said in October. “Visibility is really important… I’m just happy to be a face that people can see and think, ‘Well, if she’s doing it, maybe I should try it too.'”
After a tough 2020-21 season – in which Jackson dealt with competitions disrupted by Covid-19 as well as a scary eye injury that kept her out of the 2021 World Championships – her World Cup win in Tomaszow marks the biggest breakthrough of her career yet. She also becomes the first Black U.S. woman to win a World Cup speed skating race.
The speed skating World Cup in Tomaszow continues through Sunday.
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