Brittany Bowe

Erin Jackson goes from Ocala Cannibals to U.S. Olympic team

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WEST ALLIS, Wis. (AP) — Erin Jackson surprised herself and almost everyone else at the U.S. Olympic Speed Skating Trials, becoming an Olympian after just four months on ice.

Coming from inline skating, Jackson qualified in the 500m by finishing third behind Sochi Olympians Brittany Bowe and Heather Bergsma.

Bowe had the fastest time over two heats Friday night. She was quicker in her first run around the big oval, clocking 37.95 seconds. Her second run was 38.18.

Bergsma also was quicker in her first heat at 38.24. Her second trip was 38.42.

Jackson was just the opposite.

The 25-year-old from Ocala, Fla. (same hometown as Bowe and another Olympic skater, Joey Mantia), went 39.22 in her first heat. She was even better in her second run, going 39.04.

“I really wasn’t expecting any of this, just coming in as a newbie, just trying to do the best I can,” she said, smiling. “I still don’t even know.”

Jackson becomes the third black athlete to make the U.S. Olympic speed skating team. She joins fellow long-tracker Shani Davis and short-tracker Maame Biney, who is originally from Ghana.

Jackson is a former University of Florida engineering student and roller derby player for the Ocala Cannibals and Jacksonville RollerGirls.

Bowe and Bergsma had already earned spots in PyeongChang by finishing one-two in the 1000m, so doubling up in another event cleared the way for Jackson to join them.

Her previous personal best was 39.51 set Dec. 23 in the high altitude of Salt Lake City.

“A couple weeks ago, I was still in the 40s,” Jackson said. “I think I hadn’t even broken 40 [seconds] yet, so it’s all happened really fast.”

Bowe is a former inline skater from Ocala, and has been a teammate of Jackson’s for several years.

“She’s improving dramatically every time she steps on that ice,” Bowe said. “She’s at a point now where she can make those huge gains, so to see that two races in a row out here when the pressure is the highest is really promising for her and the sprint program for Team USA.”

On the men’s side, Mitch Whitmore added the 500m to his schedule after making his third Olympic team in the 1000m.

He skated fastest in his first heat at 35.06. But Whitmore had slow reactions in both heats.

“I’ve got a lot of room for improvement still,” he said. “It’s more stressful here than at World Cups or other big competitions just because you have to make the team and there’s expectations of being a favorite going into this competition.”

Jonathan Garcia made his second Olympic team by finishing second at 35.22 after missing out in the 1000m earlier in the week.

Kimani Griffin, a former inliner, was third at 35.26 and is expected to make the team depending on other skaters doubling up in events.

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MORE: U.S. Olympic Speed Skating Trials TV Schedule

Shani Davis makes one more Olympic speed skating team (video)

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Shani Davis is going to another Olympics, looking to add to his four speed skating medals.

The 35-year-old finished second in the 1000m at the Olympic Trials in West Allis, Wis., on Wednesday to take one of up to three U.S. spots in the event in PyeongChang next month.

“I never used to worry about these things when I was young. Of course, it was more of an automatic thing,” Davis said. “Today, I was thinking what would happen if I wasn’t going to make the team. … I went out there and fought like it was the last race of my career.”

Sochi Olympian Joey Mantia won the trials 1000m in 1:09.15. Davis was second in 1:09.23, followed by Mitch Whitmore in 1:09.31 to likely round out the Olympic team in the event.

Whitmore’s spot will be safe if some men start making the team in multiple events, which is highly expected, to keep the overall men’s roster size to a maximum of eight.

Heather Bergsma and Brittany Bowe, who both own 1000m world titles, went one-two in the women’s 1000m at trials later Wednesday to make the Olympic team.

Davis earned Olympic 1000m gold in 2006 and 2010 but finished eighth in Sochi as part of a stunning medal-less performance from the U.S. in its historically most successful Winter Games sport.

“It’s not a passing moment that I don’t think about 2014, but there’s nothing I can do about it now,” he said in 2016.

Davis rebounded from Sochi to earn a surprise world 1000m title in 2015, a crown that helped convince him not to retire. He has struggled since, finishing 12th, 12th, 13th and 14th in four World Cup 1000m races this season.

“I’m not a middle-type-of-the-pack skater,” Davis said in 2015, before his bounce-back world title. “If I’m not competitive with the rest of the world, and I’m sixth and seventh and eighth, whatever, then it’s not for me. I can happily move on.”

Davis also owns Olympic 1500m silver medals from 2006 and 2010 and will race that event at trials on Saturday. Again, the top three are in line to make the Olympic team.

He entered trials as the third-fastest U.S. man in both the 1000m and 1500m this season.

“I think I can put myself in the higher rankings worldwide, not just in America,” Davis said. “I still want to be the fastest speed skater in the world.”

Up to 16 skaters could qualify for the Olympic team at trials with the best medal hopes in the 1000m, 1500m and mass start.

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MORE: Dutch speed skaters won’t defend Olympic titles

U.S. Olympic Speed Skating Trials

Day Time (ET) Events Network
Tuesday, Jan. 2 4:15 p.m. Women’s 3000m LIVE STREAM
5:30-7 p.m. Women’s 3000m NBCSN, Streaming
Wednesday, Jan. 3 6-7:30 p.m. 1000m NBCSN, Streaming
Thursday, Jan. 4 6:30-8:30 p.m. Women’s 5000m NBCSN, Streaming
Friday, Jan. 5 4:20 p.m. 500m #1 LIVE STREAM
6:30-8 p.m. 500m #2 NBCSN, Streaming
Saturday, Jan. 6 6-8 p.m. 1500m NBCSN, Streaming
Sunday, Jan. 7 6-6:45 p.m. Mass start NBCSN, Streaming

U.S. Olympic speed skating trials preview, broadcast schedule

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The U.S. speed skating flop in Sochi did not carry over.

Four different Americans won world titles between 2015 and 2017.

The top U.S. skaters in this Olympic cycle — Heather Bergsma and Brittany Bowe — traded 1000m and 1500m world records in 2015.

The World Cup and world championships medals make what happened in Sochi — zero medals for the first time since 1984 in the U.S.’ most successful Winter Olympic sport — stand out even more.

“Of course after Sochi we looked into, like, everything that possibly could have went wrong and tried to figure out where we went wrong, but I think it was just no one was at their best at Sochi,” Bergsma said last spring.

U.S. Speedskating determined after Sochi that several factors — not just the well-publicized Under Armour skinsuit debacle — led to poor performances from every medal hopeful.

Among them was emphasizing training at altitude despite the Olympics being held near sea level.

“It wasn’t the suits,” Bergsma said in the spring. “I just think we weren’t peaked, and mentally after one person was done, we just kept dropping.

“We’re winning in [different Under Armour] suits now, so I don’t think there’s a problem there.”

Under Armour developed suits for PyeongChang with input from athletes after wind-tunnel testing months ago.

Skaters will receive them after qualifying for the Olympics at next week’s trials near Milwaukee (NBCSN, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app).

They will have a full month to train in them versus the week and a half they had before Sochi. They’re similar to the suits most skaters have worn this World Cup season.

“We hated them [the 2014 Olympic suits], to be perfectly honest,” two-time U.S. Olympian Mitch Whitmore said. “These [2018 suits] we know exactly what we’re wearing going into it. We all feel very comfortable in it.”

This season has been the least successful for U.S. skaters since Sochi.

They combined for one World Cup race victory in the fall. Bowe and four-time Olympic medalist Shani Davis have been kept off the podium altogether.

Japanese and Russians, plus the always dominant Dutch, are out in front.

But Americans racked up World Cup wins before the Olympics four years ago before falling behind in Sochi. Could they be timing peaks better this season?

Up to 16 skaters could qualify for the Olympic team at trials with the best medal hopes in the 1000m, 1500m and mass start.

Bergsma, eyeing her third Olympics and first medals, swept the 1000m and 1500m at the world championships at the PyeongChang Olympic venue last February, plus added a mass start bronze.

Bowe, a former Florida Atlantic point guard, missed almost all of last season with a concussion and was slowed this fall by illness. She swept the 1000m and 1500m at the 2015 World Championships and was the world’s best sprinter in 2015 and 2016.

Davis is trying to make one more Olympic team at age 35. All of his Olympic medals came in the 1000m and 1500m in 2006 and 2010. His best World Cup finish in the fall was 11th.

The top three men in the 1000m and 1500m at trials are in line to make the Olympic team. Davis ranks third among Americans in those events this season.

Joey Mantia is the reigning world champion in the mass start, a race making its Olympic debut in PyeongChang.

NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.

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MORE: Dutch speed skaters won’t defend Olympic titles

U.S. Olympic Speed Skating Trials

Day Time (ET) Events Network
Tuesday, Jan. 2 4:15 p.m. Women’s 3000m LIVE STREAM
5:30-7 p.m. Women’s 3000m NBCSN
Wednesday, Jan. 3 6-7:30 p.m. 1000m NBCSN
Thursday, Jan. 4 6:30-8:30 p.m. Women’s 5000m NBCSN
Friday, Jan. 5 4:20 p.m. 500m #1 LIVE STREAM
6:30-8 p.m. 500m #2 NBCSN
Saturday, Jan. 6 6-8 p.m. 1500m NBCSN
Sunday, Jan. 7 6-6:45 p.m. Mass start NBCSN