Photo: Getty Images
  /  02.13.2022

Erin Jackson just became the first Black woman to win a speed skating gold medal at the Winter Olympics.

Jackson, a 29-year-old Florida native, clutched the ceremonial stuffed panda atop the podium and smiled with a grin that reached from ear to ear. 

On Sunday (Feb. 13) Jackson made Black history by winning the women’s 500-meter race at the Winter Olympics in Beijing, China. 

Jackson zoomed along the ice rink, using her arms to propel her faster and forward to a time of 37.04 seconds. One race later, she was announced as the winner. 

Jackson became the first American woman to win an individual Olympic medal since 2002, according to the Associated Press. She also helped Team U.S.A. Earn it’s first speed skating medal of the Beijing Games. 

“Hopefully, this has an effect,” Jackson told AP. “Hopefully, we’ll see more minorities, especially in the USA, getting out and trying these winter sports.”

The feat is quite remarkable for the University of Florida graduate who first stepped on the ice in 2016. She made a complete transition from inline and roller derby skating to speed skating in 2018 and hasn’t looked back.

After earning a spot on Team U.S.A. and qualifying for the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, Jackson finished 24th but showed flashes of her potential. 

She competed in the World Cup season, and quickly became one of the world’s best sprinters. Jackson won four of eight 500-meter races and became the first Black woman to win one of those titles. 

“When I won the first World Cup, I was like, ‘OK that’s strange. Let’s see where it goes,’” Jackson recalled. “Then I won another and I was like, ‘Well, maybe I can do this.”

Jackson is working toward getting her associate’s in kinesiology. She already earned an associate’s degree in computer science and has her degree in materials science, AP reports. 

One of her goals now that the spotlight is shining on her is to increase diversity in speed skating. 

“I can’t see myself stopping now when I’m just figuring out what I’m doing,” she said prior to winning gold. “I feel like it’s the beginning.”

Check out her historic finish below:

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