Erin Jackson delivers Olympic gold to United States in 500m speed skating

Team USA's Erin Jackson won a brilliant gold in the women's 500-meter speed skating at the Beijing Olympics on Sunday and became the first Black woman to ever medal in the sport.

"Hopefully, this has an effect," Jackson said. "Hopefully, we'll see more minorities, especially in the USA, getting out and trying these winter sports."

Jackson, 29, went in the penultimate pair, and her time of 26.71 seconds was enough to see her take gold ahead of early leader Takagi Miho. She started quickly, beating Takagi's first split by 0.02 seconds and she maintained that to end up winning by 0.08 seconds.

It was a remarkable performance from Jackson, who is the first American woman to medal in the 500 since Bonnie Blair won her third straight gold in 1992. Jackson is the United States' first speed skating Olympic gold medalist since Shani Davis won the men's 1,000 at Vancouver 2010.

Despite the win, Jackson still had critiques of her performance.

"It wasn't the perfect race, I had a couple of missteps on the back straight, but I could pull it together," Jackson said. "Just a couple of missteps, that's all."

This is Jackson's second Olympics, after she competed in Pyeongchang, where she became the first Black woman to represent the U.S. in speed skating, after taking up the sport only five months prior, in September 2017.

"I wish I could describe how I feel. It is amazing," Jackson said. "This medal means so much. 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."

Jackson came into these Olympics as No. 1 in the world in the 500 but almost missed out on a chance to compete for the U.S. In the 2022 U.S. Olympic Trials, an error saw her finish third in the heats, and with only two spaces available, she was set to miss out. But the winner, Brittany Bowe, forfeited her place in the 500 to allow Jackson to compete.

"She made a really big sacrifice for me," Jackson said after her win. "I'll be grateful to her forever."

Jackson came into the Olympics having won four of eight 500 races on the World Cup circuit, along with a second- and a third-place finish.

"Words cannot explain how proud I am of her," Bowe said. "I knew she had the chance to do something really special, and she just showed the world why she deserved to be here."

Bowe ended up competing in the 500 having been offered one of the reallocated empty spots by Team USA. She was one of three Americans in the starting lineup alongside Jackson and Kimi Goetz. Bowe, who will hope to medal in both the 1,000 and 1,500, finished 16th, while Goetz came in 18th.