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Brawn and brains: The 4 things we've learned about UF graduate Erin Jackson

Gator Erin Jackson could become the first Black woman to win gold in Olympic long-track speed skating
Credit: AP
United States' Erin Jackson skates during the women's 500-meter World Cup speedskating race at the Utah Olympic Oval Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021, in Kearns, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Her friends have heard Erin Jackson call herself a "nerd."

But get this, she's a super nerd! And she's not just smart, she's fast as lightning on the ice.

Now, four things we've learned about Olympian, Erin Jackson, the first Black woman to land a spot on Team USA's long-track speed skating.

1) Erin -- impressed her professors at UF

Her professor at the University of Florida reports when Erin helped research zirconia for use in dental ceramics, her work was often better than that of PhD candidates.  

As an undergrad, Erin worked in the lab for her degree in Material Science and Engineering.  

Her professor, Dr. Jack Mecholsky, praises her intelligence, saying, "She assimilates information almost instantly."

Erin had to work with a process of using diamond edges to make indentations in the zirconia. Her professor sent us photos of the equipment she used, including an optical microscope, to make organized measurements, he says, "in terms of microns."

Credit: UF - optical microscope in research lab

2)  Erin -- not an ego case in the academic world 

Let's say a professor with the bio of Dr. Mecholsky praised your work.  

Wouldn't it go to your head?

For the record, the University of Florida calls Dr. Mecholsky "an international expert in quantitative fractographic analysis of brittle materials."  Also, a researcher for the navy, the professor says Erin "is phenomenal. She's extremely respectful. She never made a big deal of how good she was."

3) Erin -- only Gator and only SEC athlete in Beijing winter games

According to the UF, Erin will be the only UF athlete competing in Beijing and the only athlete from the SEC. 

Florida and other SEC schools typically have a high representation in the summer games in swimming, track and other sports.

Credit: AP
United States' Erin Jackson waves after the women's 500-meter World Cup speedskating race at the Utah Olympic Oval, Friday, Dec. 3, 2021, in Kearns, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

4) Her nickname on the Jax Roller Derby All-Star team -- BAYBEE!

"She was the youngest member on our team and so we call her baby," says Jennifer Gaskins, a Roller Derby teammate of Erin's. Jennifer says she often roomed with Erin on travels with the team. Back in 2016, she says, the team was ranked 7th out of 400 teams around the world.

She says when the crowd watched Erin skate on the road or on Jacksonville, you could hear person and person says, "Oh, my gosh. She's so fast!"

Keri Lewis, another teammate from her roller derby days in Jacksonville, says Erin's natural talent on the rink was remarkable. "It's precision at the end of the track. You think you've knocked her out of bounds, but she stops on a dime," Jennifer says. 

Credit: Jennifer Gaskin with Erin Jackson on Roller Derby team

Both Jennifer and Keri says they'll be nervous watching Erin go for gold in Beijing, but they believe she can do it.

They point out one amazing part of Erin's background. 

She trained on ice only four months before she landed a spot on the U.S. Olympic team.

And, by the way, Keri says Erin was tough, but she says, "No, no, I don't think she even swears." 

Certainly high respect from her roller derby teammates.

Credit: AP
Erin Jackson of the U.S. catches her breath after a training session for the women's 500 meters speedskating race at the Gangneung Oval at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Gangneung, South Korea, Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Dr. Mecholsky says he does have advice for Erin, as she prepared to compete in Beijing.  "Just do what you always do. Excel," he says. 

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