Speedskaters Brittany Bowe and Erin Jackson both hail from Oacala, FL and have been friends for almost two decades. On Sunday, their friendship made the news after Brittany gave up her spot in the 500-meter event on Team USA to Erin, who is now headed to the Beijing Olympics after this serendipitous turn of events.

Jackson is the “the first Black American woman to win a World Cup speed skating race…[and also] ranked No. 1 in the world in the 500,” and her accomplishments in the sport are even more remarkable considering the fact that she entered the sport in a historic fashion, becoming “the first Black woman to qualify for a US Olympic long-track speedskating team, just four months after taking up the sport,” after transferring over from roller derby and inline skating.

But, after a slip and bobble during the U.S. trials, Jackson unfortunately finished third, just missing out on making the team, which went to the top two contenders, with Bowe taking first.

Speaking on the matter Bowe said, “First and foremost, Erin has earned her right to be on this 500-meter team…No one is more deserving than her to get an opportunity to bring Team USA home a medal. 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… It’s just the spirit of the Olympics and being a great teammate. It’s bigger than just me, it’s Team USA…Erin has a shot to bring home a medal — hopefully a gold medal — and it’s my honor to give her that opportunity.”

Jackson, speaking at the champagne celebration on Sunday, said “It’s hard to even really put it into words…I’m beyond grateful and humbled, and just—I’m happy.” 

Talking about their friendship, Jackson said “[Brittany’s] always been there for me, helping me out, even when I was just, like, the new kid back in Ocala… She’s always been an awesome mentor and an amazing person. Someone who I can talk to if I need a friend, or advice or anything. It’s an amazing relationship, and I’m just so grateful.”This will mark Bowe’s third Olympic run and Jackson’s second, and this could potentially be Team USA’s chance to win the gold medal in the 500 meter event since 1994, after Bonnie Blair won three straight titles in the two preceding Olympics in 1992 and 1988. According to NBC Sports, Jackson “has a much better chance to get it than Bowe whose best World Cup finish in the event this season is eighth.”

To learn more about all the Olympic hopefuls, visit TeamUSA.org. Watch the Winter Olympics, beginning Feb 3 on NBC. 

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