Erin Jackson makes Olympic history with speed skating gold

Erin Jackson won gold in the women's speed skating 500 at the 2022 Winter Olympics. She is the first Black woman to win gold in an individual event at the Winter Olympics
Getty Images
0 Comments

Just over a month after a slip at Olympic Trials nearly cost her a trip to Beijing for the 2022 Winter Olympics, U.S. speed skater Erin Jackson is an Olympic gold medalist.

Jackson, competing her second Olympics just six years after she first stepped on the ice, won gold in the women’s 500-meter event.

“This medal means so much,” she said. “It has been a tough couple of years and a tough beginning for this year. For this to come around like this, I am so happy.”

Skating in the second-to-last pair, Jackson posted the fastest time of the day – 37.04 seconds – and then had to wait to see if it would hold up.

“I am a very calm person anyway, so I was just waiting and watching,” she said. “There was nothing I could do.”

Video of speed skater Erin Jackson racing the 500m at the 2022 Winter Olympics:

When the final duo crossed the line, Jackson’s gold medal was confirmed. With the win, she breaks numerous records:

  • She is the first Black woman to win a speed skating medal of any color
  • She is the first American to win speed skating gold since Shani Davis won his second straight gold in the men’s 1000m in 2010
  • She is the first American woman to win speed skating gold since Chris Witty won the women’s 1000m at the 2002 Salt Lake Games
  • She is the first American woman to win gold in the women’s 500m since Bonnie Blair won three straight titles (1988, 1992, 1994).

Japan’s Takagi Miho won silver (0.08 seconds behind Jackson), her sixth career Olympic medal, while Angelina Golikova of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) claimed her first Olympic medal, a bronze.

Erin Jackson wins gold after a slip at Trials nearly cost her a trip to the Winter Olympics

Erin Jackson entered January’s U.S. Olympic Trials as the best women’s 500m speed skater in the world, but a slip in her marquee event almost cost her a ticket to the Olympics.

In the backstretch of her 500m race, Jackson caught a bad edge, causing her to stumble. She managed to stay on her feet, and crossed the line in 38.24 seconds, a remarkable time given the bobble. But once all was said and done, Jackson found herself in third place behind Brittany Bowe and Kimi Goetz. Because the U.S. only initially qualified two spots in the women’s 500m, Jackson was on the outside looking in.

But then Bowe gave up her spot in the event.

“Erin has a shot to bring home a medal – hopefully a gold medal – and it’s my honor to give her that opportunity. She’s earned it and she deserves it,” Bowe said in January.

Bowe and Jackson grew up in Ocala, Florida, where they both competed in inline skating before making the transition to the ice. Bowe made her Olympic debut in 2014, while Jackson qualified for her first Olympic Games in 2018 after only four cumulative months of on-ice training.

Video of speed skater Erin Jackson’s first on-ice steps in 2016:

Jackson, who is four years younger, has long looked up to Bowe.

“I’ve known her almost my whole life,” Jackson said in January. “I’ve always known what an incredible person she is… She’s always been there for me, helping me out, even when I was the new kid back in Ocala. [She’s] always been an awesome mentor and an amazing friend if I ever need advice.”

Once quota spots were reallocated, the U.S. was granted a third spot in the women’s 500m, giving Bowe her own spot back. She finished 16th overall in Sunday’s race, while Goetz placed 18th.

“Words can’t explain how proud I am of her,” Bowe said after Jackson’s victory. “I knew she had the chance to do something really special and she just showed the world why she deserved to be here, and she’s Olympic champion.”

USA speed skating teammates Erin Jackson and Brittany Bowe embrace after Jackson won gold in the women's 500m at the 2022 Winter Olympics. After a slip at U.S. Olympic Trials cost Jackson a spot on the U.S. Olympic roster, Bowe gave up her own spot to ensure Jackson would be able to compete in Beijing.
BEIJING, CHINA – USA speed skating teammates Erin Jackson and Brittany Bowe embrace after Jackson won gold in the women’s 500m at the 2022 Winter Olympics. After a slip at U.S. Olympic Trials cost Jackson a spot on the U.S. Olympic roster, Bowe gave up her own spot to ensure Jackson would be able to compete in Beijing. (Photo by Douwe Bijlsma/BSR Agency/Getty Images)

But Bowe also downplayed the role she played in getting Jackson to the Olympic start line. “I’m a part of the puzzle, but I want this moment to be all about her,” Bowe said. “She went to the start line on her own and she skated the best 500 of her life to be Olympic champion.”

Jackson, though, insists Bowe’s gesture is worth celebrating, too.

“When she gave up her spot, she didn’t know we were getting a third one, so she made a really big sacrifice for me and I will be grateful to her forever,” Jackson said.

As for the impact she wants her gold medal will have, “I just hope it will do something for the sport. Hopefully more people will see this and will be, like, ‘Oh, maybe I should try some of these winter sports.’ I just hope to be a good example.”

ALSO FROM ON HER TURF: In alpine skiing, women compete, but that’s about it

Follow Alex Azzi on Twitter @AlexAzziNBC

Justine Wong-Orantes’ atypical path to becoming one of the best liberos in the world

Justine Wong-Orantes hits the ball in the women's semi-final volleyball match between USA and Serbia during the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
Getty Images
0 Comments

It’s been 20 years since the same nation held both the Olympic and world volleyball titles at the same time, but libero Justine Wong-Orantes is looking to help lead Team USA accomplish that very feat at the 2022 FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championships in the Netherlands and Poland. Competition began on Friday and the U.S. is currently 2-0 after group play wins against Kazakhstan and Canada.

“We’re trying to win, for sure,” Wong-Orantes told On Her Turf. “I think, especially with the new turn of the program and the new year of the quad, we just have a really nice blend of veterans and also newcomers on the team.”

The 14-woman roster for Team USA, which is ranked No. 1 in the world and won its first Olympic title last summer, features six players from that gold-medal-winning team. And while Wong-Orantes is among the 2021 U.S. Olympic team veterans, she’s still a relative newcomer to international play.

The Southern California native enjoyed a notable junior career – she was 12 when she became the youngest female to ever earn an AAA rating in beach volleyball – and was a standout collegian at Nebraska, where she was a member of the 2015 NCAA championship team. But Wong-Orantes followed a different path upon graduation, initially choosing not to go overseas to play professionally.

While she was first selected for the U.S. national team in 2016 and played a handful of international tournaments in the following years, it wasn’t until she started playing professionally in Germany in 2019 that she saw the potential to elevate her position on the roster. In particular, the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Olympics gave her an additional year of overseas experience, which she calls “a blessing in disguise.”

“I just felt like I was still in that developmental stage,” she said. “And a whole year postponement allowed me to go overseas and really get all the touches, all the repetitions, and just kind of expose myself to international volleyball another year. So I was, in hindsight, pretty thankful for that COVID season because I got an extra year under my belt, and I think that just gave me a ton of confidence.”

Ahead of the Olympics, Wong-Orantes earned “best libero” honors at the 2021 FIVB Volleyball National League in Rimini, Italy, which helped secure her spot on the Olympic roster. In Tokyo, she followed up with another standout performance and was named best libero of the Olympic tournament.

As to how the Wong-Orantes transformed into one of the world’s top liberos, she points to her background as a beach volleyball player. She began competing at age 8, and her first partner was Sara Hughes, a star on the AVP Pro Tour who also won two NCAA titles with USC.

“I think having that background and just the court awareness that beach volleyball forces you to have allowed me to really have a good read on the game,” said Wong-Orantes. “I think that’s what makes a great libero is just reading and always being reactive towards the ball.”

Wong-Orantes also credits the assistance of mental coach Sue Enquist, a former UCLA softball coach and U.S. national team coach, who now helps teams work on their culture and relationships. Enquist began working with the U.S. volleyball team during the pandemic and has continued in her role ever since.

“We just worked on a lot of stuff within ourselves, within our program, how to communicate with each other off the court, and I think that honestly propelled us into such a high, high level with how we worked with each other, and then that transferred onto the court,” explained Wong-Orantes, who noted the team has Enquist on speed dial while at the World Championship. “I really commend Sue. I just really give a lot of praise to her because I think our culture was never bad, but I think [she] just transformed into a different level.”

2022-09-26 - FIVB Volleyball Womens World Championship 2022 - Day 4
ARNHEM, NETHERLANDS – Justine Wong-Orantes (far right) poses for a photo with her U.S. teammates after defeating Canada at the 2022 FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship on September 26, 2022. (Photo by Rene Nijhuis/Orange Pictures/BSR Agency/Getty Images)

Wong-Orantes said she and her U.S. teammates are on their toes for the world championships, which features twice as many teams (24) as the Olympics and a “more grueling” format.

“It’s going to be a long tournament, and I think we’re really going to need all 14 of us that are here. I’m pretty certain that, at any given moment, someone’s going to be called on and someone’s going to need to step up in big moments.”

2022 Ascendant LPGA: How to watch, who’s playing in Texas’s annual signature event

Atthaya Thitikul of Thailand hits her second shot on the 16th hole during the final round of the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship.
Getty Images
0 Comments

The LPGA make its annual stop in The Colony, Texas, this week for the 10th edition of the Ascendant LPGA benefiting Volunteers of America, where Thailand’s 19-year-old rookie Atthaya Thitikul comes in hot off her second career win and second playoff victory this season at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship.

Leading the 132-player field at Old American Golf Club, located at Golf Clubs at The Tribute, are Texas residents and past champions Cheyenne Knight and Angela Stanford. They’ll compete for the $1.7 million prize purse alongside major champions Nelly KordaLydia Ko and Brooke Henderson. Last year’s Ascendant LPGA champion, world No. 1 Jin Young Ko, will not be defending her title after announcing earlier this month she would be missing several weeks due to a nagging wrist injury.

This past weekend in Arkansas, Thitikul took the lead with a 10-under 61 in the second round and shot 68 in the final round to finish regulation tied with Danielle Kang at 17-under 196. Thitikul, who won the JTBC Classic in March in a two-hole playoff vs. Nanna Koerstz Madsen, drained an 8-foot birdie putt on the second playoff hole to secure the win over Kang.


How to watch the 2022 Ascendant LPGA 

Coverage of the 2022 Ascendant LPGA from Old American Golf Club in The Colony, Texas, can be found on Golf Channel, with streaming options available any time on any mobile device and online through NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.

  • Thursday, Sept. 29: 12:30-3:30 p.m. ET, Golf Channel
  • Friday, Sept. 30: 12:30-3:30 p.m. ET, Golf Channel
  • Saturday, Oct. 1: 1-4 p.m. ET, Golf Channel
  • Sunday, Oct. 2: 1-4 p.m. ET, Golf Channel

Who’s playing in the 2022 Ascendant LPGA

Six of the top 10 players in the Rolex World Rankings are among the field in Texas, including:

  • No. 2 Nelly Korda
  • No. 4 Lydia Ko
  • No. 5 Atthaya Thitikul
  • No. 6 Brooke Henderson
  • No. 7 Lexi Thompson
  • No. 10 Nasa Hataoka

A number of local Texans also are in the tournament, headlined by past champions, Angela Stanford (2020) and Cheyenne Knight (2019), and two junior champions of the Volunteers of America Classic Girls Championship, who are playing on a sponsor exemption: Yunxuan (Michelle) Zhang (2022), a freshman at SMU, and Avery Zweig (2021), a high school sophomore from McKinney, Texas.


Past five champions of The Ascendant LPGA

YEAR WINNER SCORE MARGIN RUNNERUP
2021 Jin Young Ko (South Korea) 16-under 268 1 stroke Matilda Castren
2020 Angela Stanford (USA) 7-under 277 2 strokes So Yeon Ryu, Inbee Park, Yealimi Noh
2019 Cheyenne Knight (USA) 18-under 266 2 strokes Brittany Altomare, Jaye Marie Green
2018 Sung Hyun Park (South Korea) 11-under 131 1 stroke Lindy Duncan
2017 Haru Nomura (Japan) 3-under 281 Playoff Christie Kerr

Last time at The Ascendant LPGA

South Korea’s Jin Young Ko carded a final-round 69 to maintain her 54-hole lead at Old American Golf Club and held on for a one stroke win at the 2021 Volunteers of America Classic, her eighth career LPGA tour title. Ko finished regulation at 16-under 268, edging Finland’s Matilda Castren by one stroke.

It kicked off a five-win season for Ko, who had just lost her No. 1 ranking to Nelly Korda the week prior after holding the top spot for 100 straight weeks. She regained the No. 1 ranking back in October 2021, after earning her fourth win in seven starts at the BMW Ladies Championship.


More about Old American Golf Club

Opened in 2010, the Old American Golf Club is one of two clubs at The Tribute, a lakefront resort community on Lewisville Lake in The Colony, Texas. Designed by Tripp Davis and 12-time PGA Tour winner Justin Leonard, Old American plays as a Par 71 and stretches to 6,475 yards on the tournament scorecard.