JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Florida native Erin Jackson is headed to the Olympics for a sport she has only practiced for a few months.
As she speeds down the ice, closing-in on 28 miles per hour, speedskating is sport Jackson almost didn’t try. She trained a cumulative four months before a qualifying event that earned her a spot on the Olympic team.
“At first it was a lot of shock and I didn’t’ understand what was happening because I didn’t make sense to me that this could happen,” Erin Jackson said.
She started on a different rink near her Ocala home. Rising through the ranks in Jacksonville’s roller derby league, she didn’t step into a different pair of skates until September 2016.
“The transition was really difficult to me at first and it was really frustrating to find a form of skating that I couldn’t do and wasn’t successful at,” Jackson said.
She moved to Salt Lake City to train, and explained how a win or loss comes down to fractions of a second.
“One little slip-up could make a big difference,” Jackson said.
Back in Florida, Jackson’s roller derby teammates showed their love on social media: fundraising for Jackson’s family to make the trip to South Korea.
“I’m so grateful for all the support and it’s been awesome to see all the messages and support and I love them all,” Jackson said.
She knows with the spotlight on her race, there is also a chance to inspire others.
“If they don’t see a lot of people who look like them, they might not be eager to try this sport, so I hope that other young women see me out there and be like, ‘she’s doing this so I can do it too,’” Jackson said.
The 500-meter race Jackson will compete in takes place February 18.