Feb 1, 2022 - Sports

U.S. speed skater Erin Jackson ready for Winter Games comeback after qualifying slip

Erin Jackson

Erin Jackson during a speed skating practice this week in Beijing. Photo: Elsa/Getty Images

U.S. long track speed skater Erin Jackson is looking for her first Olympic gold in Beijing at age 29, and is ready to prove herself after a slip in qualifying.

The big picture: The Ocala, Florida native is the world's top-ranked woman in 500-meter long track, but she wouldn’t even be heading to her second Olympics if not for the kindness of her teammate, Brittany Bowe.

  • Jackson didn't qualify for the Games, slipping at trials and finishing third. But Bowe — a favorite in the 1,000 and 1,500 — gave Jackson her spot in the 500. "No one is more deserving than her," said Bowe.
  • Jackson later tweeted after finding out saying, "You can bet I'll be the loudest voice in the oval cheering for [Bowe] in the 1000 and 1500 next month." Bowe and Jackson both grew up in Ocala, where they started their speed skating careers, per NPR.

Rapid rise: Jackson grew up inline skating, but didn't step on the ice until 2016. Two years later, she qualified for Pyeongchang, and in 2021 she became the first Black woman to win a speed skating World Cup event.

The event: There are 14 events in long track (400-meter oval), which is a separate discipline from short track (111-meter oval).

  • How it works: Athletes race in pairs against the clock, and events like the 500 are single rounds, no heats. That means Jackson's entire trip to Beijing consists of 1.25 laps around the ice.
  • Bringing it home: American women won five of seven golds in the 500 between 1972 and 1994, but haven't even made the podium in the last six Olympics. Jackson's hoping to change that.
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