Being a part of the U.S. Olympics team is impressive. Qualifying for the U.S. Olympics team after only four months of training is practically unheard of. However, that’s just what speed skater Erin Jackson has accomplished.
On Friday, U.S. Speed Skating announced that Jackson completed the 500-meter race in 39.04 seconds, coming in third place, behind Sochi Olympians Brittany Bowe and Heather Bergsma. This qualifies her for the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Along with her victory, the 25-year-old speed skater is now the first black woman on the U.S. Olympic long-track skating team. And she is the third black athlete to make the U.S. Olympic speed-skating team alongside long-tracker Shani Davis and short-tracker Maame Biney.
“I surprised myself a lot. I really wasn’t expecting any of this. Just coming in as a newbie trying to do the best that I can. I still don’t even know,” Jackson said during an interview with NBC Sports. “It’s been a crazy experience. Just a couple weeks ago I was in the 40s (seconds in the 500m). I hadn’t even broken 40 (seconds) yet. It’s all happened really fast. It’s crazy.”
Though she’s only been officially training for four months, Jackson is no stranger to fierce competition. She’s been a competitive inline speed skater (also known as rollerblading) since she was a kid. In 2012 and 2013 she became the United States Olympic Committee Female Athlete of the Year for Roller Sports—all while studying Engineering at the University of Florida and maintaining her standing on the university’s dean’s list.
Despite rising quickly to the top of her game, Jackson has remained humble and down-to-earth. According to fellow roller derby player Stacie Wilhlem, Jackson is not only an incredible athlete, but also a great person.
“It’s easy for athletes who gain attention because of their skills to allow their egos to grow,” Wilhelm told ESPN. “Erin is not at all one of those people. She’s just an all-around kind person, which makes me respect her that much more.”
Get ready to see a lot more of Jackson at the Olympic Winter Games, which will take place Feb. 9 to 25.