Salt Lake Community College alumna Erin Jackson solidified her place in history when she won an Olympic gold medal for the 500-meter race on Feb. 13, becoming the first Black woman to win an Olympic medal in speedskating.
Her race was remarkably close. Jackson beat out the second-place winner by just .08 seconds.
Jackson’s gold medal is the first the United States has won in the event since 1994. Despite being ranked No. 1 in the world, she did not have a guaranteed spot after slipping during the U.S. trials.
Fortunately, fellow teammate Brittany Bowe gave up her spot so Jackson could compete in the 2022 Winter Olympics. Jackson described Bowe as “an amazing friend, teammate and mentor.”
Jackson’s coach, Ryan Shimabukuro, said that her victory has the potential to inspire a more diverse group of skaters for years to come, according to NBC.
“[There are] no barriers when it comes to diversity,” said Shimabukuro. “It’s just a matter of following your passion and your heart where it takes you … I think she’s going to inspire a lot of the African American community as well.”
For Jackson, the emotion of winning gold was overwhelming.
“I cried immediately; it was just a big release of emotion,” Jackson told CNN reporters. “A lot of shock, a lot of relief and a lot of happiness. I haven’t fully processed everything quite yet, but it just feels amazing.”