Erin Jackson, the world’s top-ranked speed skater in the women’s 500-meter, is competing in the Beijing Olympics despite placing one spot shy of qualifying. And it’s all thanks to a teammate and longtime friend who gave up her own spot for her.
Fellow American speed skater Brittany Bowe, 33, decided to relinquish her spot after winning first in a qualifying race held at U.S. Speed Skating Trials in Milwaukee.
Jackson, 29, landed third place after she slipped during the 500-meter event. She crossed the line in 38.24 seconds, placing one spot short of Olympic qualification behind Bowe and Kimi Goetz.
Bowe, who secured a spot in the 500m, 1000m, and 1500m distances during the trials, said that her “heart sank” when she saw Jackson’s slip, but encouraged her friend after the race by giving her a hug before they left the building.
“That evening, I said if it comes down to me, if there’s anything I could do to get you on the team, you have my place,’” she recalled.
“She’s ranked number one in the world and no one is more deserving than her to get an opportunity to bring Team U.S.A home a medal, and after that unfortunate slip I knew in my mind before that night was even over that if it had to come down to a decision of mine, she could have my place,” Bowe added.
Bowe hadn’t finished her 1500-meter qualifying race then, but after competing, she decided it would be best if Jackson took her 500-meter spot.
She decided to make it official when she was called by the U.S. Speed Skating telling to come to the rink for the announcement of the Olympic team lineup.
“I just had to make my official call because I couldn’t have had a celebratory time without Erin there,” Bowe said.
Jackson praised her teammate for her selfless act in a series of tweets.
“Definitely not the way I imagined qualifying for my second Olympic team… but I guess I had to one-up my story from the 2018 Trials. I’m incredibly grateful and humbled by the kindness of @BrittanyBowe in helping me to secure a chance at reaching my goals in #Beijing2022,” wrote Jackson.
Jackson, who made history in 2018 as the first Black woman to qualify for a U.S. Olympic long-track speed skating team, said it was a kind gesture she will “never forget.”
“It’s hard to really put it into words, I’m beyond grateful and humbled and I’m happy. I’ve grown up with Britney, I’ve known her almost my whole life,” Jackson said.
She also described Bowe as an “awesome mentor” and “amazing friend.”
Bowe, a former world champion in speed skating, had known Jackson since the latter was 10. They grew up in Ocala, Florida, where they competed in inline skating before transitioning to the ice.
Bowe also qualified for the 1000-meter and 1500-meter races, so she will still compete in the Olympics. This is her third Olympic appearance, while it’s Jackson’s second.
“You can bet I’ll be the loudest voice in the oval cheering for her in the 1000 and 1500 next month,” wrote Jackson in her tweet.
It’s still possible for Bowe to compete in the 500m in the Beijing Olympics. While the U.S. currently has two quota spots, the American team could get a third spot if other countries accept or decline quota spots.
The opening ceremonies for the Beijing Olympics will take place on February 4.
Bowe’s selfless act is indeed a stunning show of sportsmanship and true friendship. We wish these great athletes good luck in the upcoming winter games!
Watch the pair’s interview with NBC in the video below.
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