Long track speed skating may sound simple, but it's no easy feat. It's one of the most aggressive and competitive forms of speed skating. Speed skating is a daunting physical activity where skaters have to complete a certain amount of distance in the shortest amount of time — and its international audience ranges from the Netherlands, Canada, Finland, Germany to Japan, South Korea, Sweden, and Russia. That's why speed skater Erin Jackson's achievement of making it to the first Olympics team is inspiring news for everyone — especially speed skating fans in the United States.
On Friday, U.S. Speed Skating shared the news, reporting that Jackson won third place during the 500 meter race with fellow speed skaters Heather Bergsma and Brittany Bowe. While the competition took place in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Jackson is a native of Ocala in the Sunshine State, Florida.
Jackson's third place victory could sound forgettable, but it comes with a stunning caveat that is totally worth mentioning. The 25-year-old speed skater took only four short months to make it to the Olympic team. Not only does her incredibly brief training period point to her strength, Jackson is also the very first African American woman to make it to join the American Olympic ranks of long track speed skating. According to The Chicago Tribune, Jackson finished in third place by completing the 500-meter race in 39.04 seconds.
While speaking with NBC Olympics, Jackson shared her feelings on her accomplishment.
I really wasn't expecting [to make it] coming in. I know I've been improving quickly but I never would've expected this. It's pretty cool.
When asked about the extremely short time she trained on ice, Jackson thanked her coach, Hawaii-native Ryan Shimabukuro, for his guidance and expertise. Although Jackson has been on ice for four months as far as professional training goes, she is no stranger to the art of skating itself. Since she was a child, Jackson has been practicing competitive inline speed skating.
You might know this sport through the name of rollerblading. Although inline skating is a full-body sport, athletes undergo constant training to strengthen the upper body as well as lower body.
As a veteran of this gruelling sport, Jackson has won many awards, according to ESPN. In 2008 and 2009, she won five inline speed skating medals while she was in high school. As a student at the University of Florida, Jackson studied engineering but she didn't give up her passion for skating. In 2012 and 2013, she became the United States Olympic Committee Female Athlete of the Year for Roller Sports. But perhaps the best bit is for roller derby fans; Jackson joined the sport in 2015 while bringing her team, Jacksonville RollerGirls, up the ranks of Women's Flat Track Derby Association.
The athlete is definitely making massive strides in her profession but her humility is ever present, in the words of the people that know her. According to roller derby player Stacie Wilhelm from Denver, Colorado, Jackson is a down-to-earth and kind human being. "It's easy for athletes who gain attention because of their skills to allow their egos to grow. Erin is not at all one of those people. She's just an all-around kind person, which makes me respect her that much more," Wilhelm told ESPN.
Jackson's amicable personality seems to be icing on the cake. With her historic achievement qualifying her for long track speed skating at the Olympics level, the speed skater's demeanor is calm and collected. And all of this took place in four brutally short months, which is - as Jackson would say - "pretty cool."