The US speedskating trials to qualify for the upcoming Winter Olympics took an unexpected turn on Friday, when Erin Jackson stumbled straight to second in the 500-meter race, finished third and qualified for Team USA in an event failed to do so in which Jackson was ranked No. 1 in the world.
Jackson, the first black woman to win a World Cup event when she won the 500m gold medal in Poland in November, has won four of eight World Cup races this season, as well as a second and third place. finish each one.
The slip-up put her final time at 38.24 seconds, which was twice the top times by Kimmy Goetz and Brittany Bowe of 37.86 and 37.81, respectively.
Jackson requested to skate again, but was not granted one because the rules state that a re-skate is only allowed if a skater falls completely or experiences a mechanical failure.
“The rules are that you have to fall to get to skate again,” Jackson said in an interview on USA Network after the race. “One stumbling block in 500 is enough to get you out of this. Maybe I should have sat down.”
The only way Jackson would be on the team now would be if either Goetz or Bowe were not available for the Olympics, or if they chose to give Jackson their spot.
“I messed up, it’s definitely on me,” Jackson, “but it would be nice to get to skate again.”
Jackson bobs in the second straight part of the sprint at the Petit National Ice Center.
Jackson will be a strong contender for the gold medal in Beijing.
Bowe and Goetz have already qualified for Beijing by placing first and second in the 1,000 on Thursday. Bowe and Jackson are friends from Ocala, Florida.
“All I can do is wait and see if someone refuses their place, so I can go,” Jackson said. “I’m just not giving up hope.”
The Americans have secured two places for the women’s 500 at next month’s Olympics.
“There’s nothing that can be done rule-wise to get him into the Olympics,” said National Long Track Program Director Matt Curman. “It really is the winner here at the Olympic Trials.”
US Speedskating must submit its final Olympic roster by January 17.
Kurman said it would be up to Bowe or Goetz whether they want to leave their place in the 500.
Bowe has specialized in the 1,000 and 1,500 during his career, although he won a silver medal in the 500 at the 2015 World Singles Distance Championships. She finished fifth in the 500 at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games and 13th in the event in her 2014 Olympic debut.
Goetz was fifth in the 500 at the 2020 World Single Distance Championships. She has become an Olympian for the first time.
None of them would be as strong a medal contender as Jackson, who remained after his shocking slip.
“Erin Jackson is a complete class act,” Curman said. “It’s especially heartbreaking to see this happen to her.”
Jordan Stolz won the men’s 500 in a track-record 34.55 to qualify for his second Olympic event. The 17-year-old phenom also won 1,000 in track-record time on Thursday.
“It’s great to be able to do two of them, especially since they are my two best distances,” Stolz said.
His parents are working as volunteers in trials to be able to see him in person after spectators were banned due to rising COVID-19 cases.
Austin Kleba finished second in 35.17, although he will have to wait to see if he will move to Beijing as the American men have only one quota place in the event. The final quota re-allocation for the Olympics will be done at the end of this month.
“I’ve done everything I could have done so far, so whatever the outcome, I’m definitely happy with my performance,” Kleba said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.