Erin Jackson competes at the ISU Four Continents Speed Skating Championships on Jan. 31, 2020 in Milwaukee, Wisc.
Though ice wasn’t much of a feature when Erin Jackson was growing up in central Florida, she’s been skating “since I’ve been able to walk adequately,” she said with a warm laugh.
After all, you don’t necessarily need ice to be a skater.
Jackson recalls her mother, also an avid skater, strapping her feet into plastic yellow and blue Fisher-Price roller skates, then taking them on a spin on the driveway.
“And then I became what’s called a rink rat,” Jackson said. “I went around to the skating rinks in my spare time, hanging out with all the other skaters.”
From there Jackson picked up figure skating for two years. But when her coaches moved out west to help their daughters pursue their Olympic dreams, Jackson pivoted again, this time to inline speedskating.
In her hometown of Ocala, Florida, which happens to be a hotbed for inline speedskating, Jackson showed natural talent, and before long it was her turn to move out west to pursue an Olympic dream.
Just four months before the 2018 U.S. Olympic Team Trials, Jackson picked up a pair of ice speedskates — and a new sport. At those trials she flew across the ice to finish third in the 500-meter long track event and qualify for the 2018 U.S. Olympic Team. In doing so, she became the first Black woman to make the U.S. Olympic long track speedskating team.
After overcoming the initial shock of her achievement, she had a moment to reflect.
“This is a really awesome opportunity to be an example,” she said. “Because I wish there were more people of color and greater diversity in these winter sports.”