When speedskater Erin Jackson won the gold in Sunday’s 500-meter race at the Beijing Olympics, the 29-year-old wasn’t the only one overjoyed by her phenomenal finish.
That's because, although it was an individual event, in some ways, Jackson was racing for two.
Her spot in the competition came courtesy of another athlete — fellow speedskater and Team USA flag bearer Brittany Bowe, who gave up her own 500-meter slot so her childhood friend could have it instead.
Moments after Jackson left the icy track Sunday, the two shared a hug and a few words spectators couldn’t quite hear.
“I think it was mostly hugging and tears,” Jackson explained to TODAY’s Craig Melvin Monday. “But yeah, she was just saying she’s so proud of me. And I was like, ‘We did it!’ Yeah, it was pretty wild."
"Maybe a young Black girl saw my race and she’s like, ‘Oh! Maybe I should try this.'"
Erin Jackson, after her history win in the 500-Meter race
And it was a fitting finish for Jackson, who made the most of her rare opportunity after stumbling in the speedskating trials in Milwaukee last month.
“Erin earned her right to be on this 500-meter team. She’s ranked No. 1 in the world,” Bowe, 33, told NBC Sports at the time. “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.”
And the rest is Olympic history — literally.
Jackson's 37.04-second run in the 500-meter not only marked the first Olympic medal of her career, with it, she became the first Black woman to win a gold in the event, as well the first Black woman to win a gold in any individual event at the Winter Olympics.
Now Jackson is looking ahead to the day she won't hold those distinctions alone.
"I just hope it sparks something," she said during her visit to TODAY. "Maybe a young Black girl saw my race or something, and she’s like, ‘Oh! Maybe I should try this.' That would be amazing, even if it's just one person."
And she hopes to get the opportunity to inspire more future athletes when the 2026 Games take place in Italy.
"Yeah, I don’t think I can be done yet," she said.