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Erin Jackson surprised herself and almost everyone else at the U.S. speedskating trials, becoming a first-time Olympian after just four months on ice.

Coming from the world of inline skating, Jackson qualified in the 500 meters by finishing third behind veterans Brittany Bowe and Heather Bergsma.

Bowe had the fastest time over two heats Friday night. She was quicker in her first run around the big oval, clocking 37.95 seconds. Her second run was 38.18.

Bergsma also was quicker in her first heat at 38.24. Her second trip was 38.42.

Jackson was just the opposite.

The 25-year-old skater from Ocala, Florida, went 39.22 in her first heat. She was even better in her second run, going 39.04.

“I really wasn’t expecting any of this, just coming in as a newbie, just trying to do the best I can,” she said, smiling. “I still don’t even know.”

 

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Erin Jackson competes in the Ladies 500 meter event during the Long Track Speed Skating Olympic Trials at the Pettit National Ice Center on January 5, 2018 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 

Jackson became the first black woman to qualify for the U.S. Olympic long-track speedskating team, joining Maame Biney who recently became the first black woman to qualify for the speedskating team in short-track. 

Both join long-tracker Shani Davis who was the first black athlete to qualify for a speedskating team in 2002 and will make his fifth Olympic appearance in Pyeongchang. 

Bowe and Bergsma had already earned spots in Pyeongchang by finishing 1-2 in the 1,000, so doubling up in another event cleared the way for Jackson to join them.

Her previous personal best was 39.51 set Dec. 23 in the high-altitude of Salt Lake City.

“A couple weeks ago, I was still in the 40s,” Jackson said. “I think I hadn’t even broken 40 (seconds) yet, so it’s all happened really fast.”

Bowe is a former inline skater from Ocala, and has been a teammate of Jackson’s for several years.

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“She’s improving dramatically every time she steps on that ice,” Bowe said. “She’s at a point now where she can make those huge gains, so to see that two races in a row out here when the pressure is the highest is really promising for her and the sprint program for Team USA.”

On the men’s side, Mitch Whitmore added the 500 to his schedule after making his third Olympic team in the 1,000.

He skated fastest in his first heat at 35.06. But Whitmore had slow reactions in both heats.

“I’ve got a lot of room for improvement still,” he said. “It’s more stressful here than at World Cups or other big competitions just because you have to make the team and there’s expectations of being a favorite going into this competition.”

Began Skating: 2003

Sponsor: Bont Skates

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Employer: Dick’s Sporting Goods (Team USA Contenders Program)

High School: Forest High School

High School Graduation: 2011

High School Location: Ocala, FL

High School Sports: Track and Field

College: University of Florida

College Graduation: 2015

Major: Materials Engineering

International Experience: 

Pan American Games 2015 – Silver 500m

Pan American Olympic Festival 2014 – Gold 500m, Silver 300m

United States Olympic Committee Female Athlete of the Year for Roller Sports 2012, 2013, 2015,

Skating Goals: I hope to obtain the ever-elusive senior gold medal!

Father: Tracy Jackson

Mother: Rita Jackson

Brothers: Corey Farmer