In speed skater Erin Jackson’s story, here are chapter and verse

ISU World Cup 2 Stavanger - day 2
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There are so many compelling parts of Erin Jackson’s story it is hard to know which to begin with.

Do you start with Jackson being such a good inline skater she was a four-time world medalist named the U.S. Olympic Committee’s female roller athlete of the year three times?

Or her making the 2018 U.S. Olympic team in long track speed skating about five minutes after she shifted from wheels to blades?

(OK, it took her a little longer, but you get the idea.)

Or her being the first Black woman to make a U.S. Olympic team in long track?

Or her doing that despite coming to the 2018 Olympic trials without having met the qualifying time for the ensuing PyeongChang Winter Games.

Or her getting so many college degrees in so many subjects that Jackson jokingly (or not) thinks she should include “school” when asked to list her hobbies?

Or Jackson calling her skating “embarrassing” after getting her first World Cup victory three weeks ago in Poland?

Or winning that season-opening World Cup 500m race after missing the entire 2020-21 international season due to multiple quarantines for Covid close contacts and an eye injury caused when a bungee cord snapped loose?

Or, with that victory in the 500m, becoming the first Black woman to win an individual event in the 36-year-history of the World Cup?

Or doing it after having finished no higher than ninth in her 10 previous World Cup races?

Or her going on to win the next two World Cup 500s, finishing second in the following one and coming into the World Cup that begins Friday at the Utah Olympic Oval near Salt Lake City with the world’s four fastest 500 times this season, three of them new personal bests? And then winning the Friday race with a new personal best that also broke the U.S. record?

Or doing all this when, as her coach, Ryan Shimabukuro, puts it, the 29-year-old from Ocala, Florida, still is in the infancy of her ice skating career?

(And we haven’t even mentioned the roller derby part. She is a master of two wheels, four wheels and blades.)

“When I started out on ice, I was like, ‘I’m a speed skater, and this is speed skating, and why isn’t this coming easier?’ I really struggled at the beginning,” Jackson said in a telephone interview this week. “Meeting this new challenge has been the most rewarding thing.”

Her recent success has not fooled Jackson into thinking she is a refined product technically, as was evident in the “embarrassing” self-description of her technique in a Dutch TV interview after winning the Polish race with a track record time.

“When I look at myself and then look at other skaters, it doesn’t look like I’m skating properly, but if it’s working, then I guess it’s OK,” Jackson said.

“Speed skating has a sort of poetry to the way it looks, the motion of it. I hope to make it look very pretty soon.”

If her poetry in motion still is more doggerel than Lord Byron, that’s not surprising.

“To a casual observer, inline and ice look similar because they are skating movements,” Shimabukuro said via telephone this week. “But there is a big difference in how you deliver power through a blade on ice versus through wheels on cement or concrete. The timing of your push is different, how you apply force is different, your body position is different.”

“Because she had been a roller skater for so long and had also done artistic roller skating, she had a good feeling for being in boots and for moving across a surface. You could tell she was a little hesitant on ice at first but very eager to learn, and she asked good questions. She didn’t just shake her head yes if she didn’t understand but asked me to explain it a different way.”

Once an engineer, always an engineer, especially one who has gone on for associate degrees in computer science and kinesiology.

Jackson, who began inline racing at 9, first got on ice skates at 24 during a brief September 2016 outing with Dutch inline team members at a rink in the Netherlands. Video of that session she posted on Instagram several years later showed her moving on the ice with striking fluidity for a newbie.

Like many champion inliners, including another Ocalan, Brittany Bowe, who has won multiple world titles on both blades and wheels, Jackson would be drawn to try ice skating by the lure of the sport’s Olympic presence.

When she took the next step by joining the US Speedskating program designed to transition successful inliners into ice skaters, Jackson said she turned down two job offers that would have used her materials engineering degree (Dean’s List) from the University of Florida.

“It was kind of a tough decision, but I knew if I didn’t try ice skating then, when would I ever get a chance to do it?” she said.

Jackson went to Salt Lake City in February 2017, spent a couple months training to ice skate, returned to inline and roller derby that summer, then went back to Utah for a four-month block of training leading to the 2018 U.S. trials.

Nearly all speed skaters use cycling as cross training. Jackson never had been on a road bike until going to Utah, and the unfamiliarity led to what she said were multiple crashes (none serious). She also never had done weightlifting before.

“I had to learn all the techniques for lifting,” she said.

Shimabukuro, about to coach in his fifth Olympics, said the goal for Jackson’s first season was about gaining experience from competing in the U.S. trials and getting a program underway for the 2022 Olympics. “There was no pressure on her, but she is definitely a game-day athlete,” he said.

So she unexpectedly made the 2018 Olympics by finishing third in the 500, recording personal bests in both races.

“In 2018, I didn’t know what I was doing, didn’t know how I found myself in that situation,” she said. “It was kind of a whirlwind. Everything seemed to happen very quickly and then I found myself at the Olympics.

She finished 24th of 31 in the 500 in South Korea, more than two seconds (a light-year at that distance) behind winner Nao Kodaira of Japan. By the 2020 World Single Distance Championships, she was seventh in the 500, less than .6 behind winner Kodaira. This season, Jackson has beaten Kodaira in three of the four World Cup races and finished just .15 behind her in the other.

“This year I’m coming in with a lot more confidence,” Jackson said. “I’m starting to feel more comfortable on the ice and in what I’m supposed to be doing.”

Her timetable accelerated after losing most of last season to the pandemic and the eye injury. Her goal for 2020-21 had been to be consistently in the top five with a few podium finishes and for this season to be consistently on the podium with a couple wins.

“Skipping last season, I had to skip that goal too and set my sights on the next,” she said. “Because I didn’t race last season, I didn’t know where I stood in the world. It was surprising and really awesome for me to pull out a couple wins right at the beginning.”

That all her races so far have been at sea level bodes well for Beijing, where the oval also is at sea level. The world’s fastest times – including Jackson’s entire top 15 – now are all recorded at altitude (the Utah Olympic Oval is at 4,669 feet), but some skaters don’t adapt as well to the lower speeds in racing at sea level.

“When I first got on the ice, I was way better at sea level because I wasn’t too skilled a skater, just relying on power and raw speed,” Jackson said. “Now I’m getting a little better at the finesse part and having more success at altitude.”

Shimabukuro said her times this weekend may not be eye-catching because the long trackers are in the midst of a heavy workload block as they gear toward the 2022 Olympics, where the women’s 500 is not until the 10th day (February 13).

Except Jackson continues to defy expectations. She won Friday’s 500 on the Utah Olympic Oval in 36.80 seconds, nearly three-tenths of a second under her previous personal best (37.08) and one-tenth under the U.S. record (36.90) set by Heather Bergsma in 2013.

The U.S., an Olympic power in long track speed skating for nearly all the Winter Games from 1972 through 2010, won no medals in 2014 and just one bronze (in women’s team pursuit) in 2018. Jackson, Bowe, 33, and Joey Mantia, 35, another Ocala-bred former inliner, all should be medal contenders in Beijing.

When her competitive days end, Jackson hopes to combine all her academic interests into a career as a bio mechanist, perhaps in research and development. As a materials engineering student, she worked on designing ceramics for dental uses.

Jackson plans to continue ice skating at least until the 2026 Olympics, although she may return to both inline and roller derby at times in the upcoming years. She has done neither in a couple years, partly because competition in both sports has been shut down for some or all of that time by the pandemic.

Shimabukuro closely monitors her racing load because Jackson herniated three discs in her lower back in 2019. That is why she only skates the 1000m occasionally for now. Her entire focus for Beijing is on the 500.

“If my body is holding up after that (2026), I would like to go for another four,” she said.

Jackson understands how much her presence in the sport can encourage other people of color to try it.

“That’s really important to me,” she said. “There isn’t a whole lot of diversity in the Winter Games, and visibility has a big impact on that.

“You hear the argument, `There’s nothing holding back people of color from doing these winter sports.’ Of course not, but like with Sally Ride (the first U.S. woman in space), there was nothing holding back women from studying science and space exploration, but once she became the first, the numbers of young girls interested in space skyrocketed. I hope I can do that for someone.”

Philip Hersh, who has covered the last 11 Winter Olympics, is a special contributor to

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Ryan Crouser breaks world record in shot put at Los Angeles Grand Prix


Two-time Olympic champion Ryan Crouser registered one of the greatest performances in track and field history, breaking his world record and throwing three of the six farthest shot puts of all time at the Los Angeles Grand Prix on Saturday.

Crouser unleashed throws of 23.56 meters, 23.31 and 23.23 at UCLA’s Drake Stadium. His previous world record from the Tokyo Olympic Trials was 23.37. He now owns the top four throws in history, and the 23.23 is tied for the fifth-best throw in history.

“The best thing is I’m still on high volume [training], heavy throws in the ring and heavy weights in the weight room, so we’re just starting to work in some speed,” the 6-foot-7 Crouser, who is perfecting a new technique coined the “Crouser slide,” told Lewis Johnson on NBC.

Sha’Carri Richardson won her 100m heat in 10.90 seconds into a slight headwind, then did not start the final about 90 minutes later due to cramping, Johnson said. Richardson is ranked No. 1 in the world in the 100m in 2023 (10.76) and No. 2 in the 200m (22.07).

Jamaican Ackeem Blake won the men’s 100m in a personal best 9.89 seconds. He now ranks third in the world this year behind Kenyan Ferdinand Omanyala and American Fred Kerley, who meet in the Diamond League in Rabat, Morocco on Sunday (2-4 p.m. ET, CNBC,, the NBC Sports app and Peacock).

The next major meet is the USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships in early July, when the top three in most individual events qualify for August’s world championships.

Richardson will bid to make her first global championships team, two years after having her Olympic Trials win stripped for testing positive for marijuana and one year after being eliminated in the first round of the 100m at USATF Outdoors.

LA GRAND PRIX: Full Results

Also Saturday, Olympic champion Jasmine Camacho-Quinn of Puerto Rico won the 100m hurdles in 12.31, the fastest time ever this early in a year. Nigerian Tobi Amusan, who at last July’s worlds lowered the world record to 12.12, was eighth in the eight-woman field in 12.69.

Maggie Ewen upset world champion Chase Ealey in the shot put by throwing 20.45 meters, upping her personal best by more than three feet. Ewen went from 12th-best in American history to third behind 2016 Olympic champion Michelle Carter and Ealey.

Marileidy Paulino of the Dominican Republic ran the fastest women’s 400m since the Tokyo Olympics, clocking 48.98 seconds. Paulino is the Olympic and world silver medalist. Olympic and world champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo of the Bahamas is on a maternity break.

Rio Olympic bronze medalist Clayton Murphy won the 800m in 1:44.75, beating a field that included most of the top Americans in the event. Notably absent was 2019 World champion Donovan Brazier, who hasn’t raced since July 20 of last year amid foot problems.

CJ Allen won the 400m hurdles in a personal best 47.91, consolidating his argument as the second-best American in the event behind Olympic and world silver medalist Rai Benjamin, who withdrew from the meet earlier this week.

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Primoz Roglic set to win Giro d’Italia over Geraint Thomas

106th Giro d'Italia 2023 - Stage 20
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Primož Roglič all but secured the Giro d’Italia title on Saturday by overtaking leader Geraint Thomas on the penultimate stage despite having a mechanical problem on the mountain time trial.

Roglič started the stage 26 seconds behind Thomas — who was trying to become the oldest Giro champion in history — but finished the route 40 seconds quicker than the British cyclist after the demanding climb of the Monte Lussari.

That saw Roglič move into the leader’s pink jersey, 14 seconds ahead of Thomas going into the race’s mainly ceremonial final stage.

Roglič was cheered on all the way by thousands of fans from just across the border to his native Slovenia. They packed the slopes of the brutal ascent up Monte Lussari, which had an elevation of more than 3,000 feet and gradients of up to 22%.

The 33-year-old Roglič celebrated at the end with his wife and son, who was wearing a replica of the pink jersey.

“Just something amazing, eh? It’s not at the end about the win itself, but about the people, and the energy here, so incredible, really moments to live and to remember,” said Roglič, who had tears in his eyes during the post-stage television interview, which he did with his son in his arms.

It will be a fourth Grand Tour victory for Roglič, who won the Spanish Vuelta three years in a row from 2019-2021

Roglič also almost won the Tour de France in 2020, when he was leading going into another mountain time trial on the penultimate stage. But that time it was Roglič who lost time and the race to compatriot Tadej Pogačar in one of the most memorable upsets in a Grand Tour in recent years.

It appeared as if the Jumbo-Visma cyclist’s hopes were evaporating again when he rode over a pothole about halfway through the brutal climb up Monte Lussari and his chain came off, meaning he had to quickly change bicycles.

His teammates and staff had their hands over their heads in disbelief.

Despite that setback, Roglič — who had been 16 seconds ahead of Thomas at the previous intermediate time check — went on to increase his advantage.

“I dropped the chain, I mean it’s part of it,” he said. “But I got started again and I just went … I had the legs, the people gave me extra (energy).”

The 33-year-old Roglič won the stage ahead of Thomas. Joao Almeida was third, 42 seconds slower.

For Thomas, his bad luck at the Giro continued. In 2017, he was involved in a crash caused by a police motorbike, and three years later he fractured his hip after a drinks bottle became lodged under his wheel – being forced to abandon both times.

Thomas turned 37 on Thursday. The Ineos Grenadiers cyclist had seemed poised to become the oldest Giro winner in history — beating the record of Fiorenzo Magni, who was 34 when he won in 1955.

“I could feel my legs going about a kilometer and a half from the top. I just didn’t feel I had that real grunt,” Thomas said. “I guess it’s nice to lose by that much rather than a second or two, because that would be worse I think.

“At least he smashed me and to be honest Primoz deserves that. He had a mechanical as well, still put 40 seconds into me so chapeau to him. If you’d told me this back in (February), March, I would have bit your hand off but now I’m devastated.”

Thomas and Roglič exchanged fist bumps as they waited their turn to ride down the ramp at the start of the 11.6-mile time trial.

The Giro will finish in Rome on Sunday, with 10 laps of a seven-mile circuit through the streets of the capital, taking in many of its historic sites.

“One more day to go, one more focus, because I think the lap is quite hard, technical. So it’s not over til it’s finished,” Roglič said. “But looks good, voila.”

The route will pass by places such as the Altare della Patria, the Capitoline Hill, the Circus Maximus and finish at the Imperial Forums, in the shadow of the Colosseum.

The Tour de France starts July 1, airing on NBC Sports and Peacock.

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