There’s no denying that speedskater Erin Jackson was one of the world’s fastest women to compete in the 500-meter race at the Beijing Olympic trials.
Erin, who became the first Black woman to make the U.S. Olympic long track speedskating team in 2018, won four of the eight 500-meter races on the World Cup circuit, and she seemed to be a shoo-in to take one of the two American spots at the 2022 Olympics. Then, during the qualifying race in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the impossible happened.
Just moments into the race, Erin stumbled. Although she recovered from the misstep quickly, her mistake put her in third place and eliminated her from Olympic contention. Erin was crushed and spent that night tossing and turning, reliving the awful moment when she’d seen her Olympic hopes come to an end.
“I couldn’t turn my brain off,” Erin said. “It’s been really stressful, just kind of being in limbo for so long.”
The next morning, Erin received a call from her friend and teammate, Brittany Bowe. Brittany is a three-time Olympian, world record holder, World Cup champion, and Olympic bronze medalist. She had already qualified to compete in the 1,000- and 1,500-meter races in Beijing, and Erin’s stumble granted her one of the two 500-meter spots as well.
But Brittany, who first met Erin when they were just kids training together in Ocala, Florida, simply couldn’t sit by and let her “skatesister” miss her shot at an Olympic gold.
That morning, Brittany told Erin that she intended to step down from the 500-meter race so Erin, who placed third, could take her spot. Erin said she felt “really overwhelming emotions” when she realized that meant she was headed to her second Olympics in spite of her fumble!
Brittany said she came to this decision as soon as Erin didn’t qualify, but she waited until she’d finished her qualifying races to share her decision.
“It’s the right thing to do,” she said. “There’s not a doubt in my mind that she wouldn’t do the same thing for me.”
“Just for her to do something like this for me, it’s amazing,” Erin added. “I’m just incredibly grateful. I’m really humbled, and she’s just an amazing person.”
Other members of Team USA have called Brittany’s move “honorable,” and Erin is determined to work even harder to bring home the gold not just for herself and her country, but for Brittany as well. One thing is certain: Brittany will be there cheering her on every step of the way!
“It’s just the spirit of the Olympics and being a great teammate,” Brittany said, “and yes, it’s bigger than just me. It’s Team USA. Erin has a shot to bring home a medal, hopefully a gold medal, and it’s my honor to give her that opportunity.”
What an incredibly selfless thing to do! These top athletes have devoted their entire lives to competition, so to give up a race is truly the most compassionate thing Brittany could do. We will be rooting for both of these incredible skaters in Beijing!
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