After almost missing the Olympics due to an uncharacteristic mistake at USA Olympic trials, Erin Jackson proved why she is ranked No. 1 in the world on the biggest global stage.

With a time of 37.04, Jackson won gold in the 500-meter speedskating race on Sunday at the Winter Olympics in Beijing.

With her gold medal performance, Jackson became the first Black woman to win an individual speedskating medal at the Olympics.

She is also the first American woman to win the 500-meter race at the Olympics since Bonnie Blair in 1994 and the first American woman to win an individual speedskating medal since Chris Witty won the 1,000-meter race the 2002 Salt Lake Winter Games.

“Hopefully it has an effect,” Jackson said, per Team USA. “Hopefully we can see more minorities, especially in the USA, getting out and trying some of these winter sports. And I just always hope to be a good example, especially with helping kids see that they don’t have to just choose one between school and sports.”

Jackson’s race was the second-to-last pairing of the event. Paired against Poland’s Kaja Ziomek, Jackson pulled away from Ziomek on the first turn, but was racing against the leading time — 37.12 — set by Japan’s Miho Takagi.

With her final stride across the finish line, Jackson’s time of 37.04 put her in the lead — 0.08 seconds ahead of Takagi.

Jackson, the No. 1-ranked 500-meter skater in the world, had a megawatt smile on her face as she crossed the finish line, knowing she had done enough to win gold.

Teammate and fellow Salt Lake resident Brittany Bowe was watching and cheering Jackson on rinkside.

“Just being there as an awesome teammate, an awesome friend, and awesome mentor,” Jackson told NBC. “Then of course, earlier this year, helping me get on the (Olympic) team.”

After Jackson uncharacteristically slipped and failed to qualify for the Olympics in the 500-meter at the USA speedskating Olympic trials, Bowe — who finished first — gave up her spot to Jackson.

As fate would have it, Bowe also got to compete in the 500-meter race in Beijing after countries returned quota spots in the event.

She finished 16th with a time of 38.04.

After the final pairing of the event — Russian Olympic Committee’s Olga Fatkulina and Poland’s Andzelika Wojcik finished in 10th and 11th, respectively — Jackson had officially won gold.

“I think I cried immediately,” Jackson said, per Team USA. “Just like a big release of emotion. A lot of shock, a lot of relief, and a lot of happiness.”


How other athletes with Utah ties did in Sunday’s medal events

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Cross-Country Skiing — Men’s 4x10km Relay

United States (Luke Jager — University of Utah, current Utah ski team, Kevin Bolger — University of Utah, 2014-17 Utah ski team) — 9th place out of 15 teams

Short Track — Women’s 3000m Relay

United States (Maame Biney — current University of Utah student, trains in Park City, Kristen Santos — University of Utah graduate) — penalized

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