The 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games was filled with history-making events by Black athletes. Winter sports may be uncommon to some, but Erin Jackson and Elana Meyers Taylor brought international attention to their sports with their record breaking achievements.
This year’s Winter Olympic Games occurred in Beijing from Feb. 4-20. In addition to the exemplary success of the USA team across the board, speedskater Erin Jackson and bobsledder Elana Meyers Taylor captivated the world’s attention. They both broke records and made history, as Black women, during Black History Month.
Jackson competed in the 500m speed-skating event and won a gold medal, breaking numerous records. She became the first Black woman to win a speed-skating medal of any color and the first American to win the speedskating event since Shani Davis in 2010. According to NBC Sports, she is also the first American woman to win speed-skating gold since Chris Witty won the 1000m in 2002, and the first American woman to win gold in the Women’s 500m since Bonnie Blair in 1994.
Jackson first made her debut on ice six years ago in 2016 and qualified for her first Olympic Games in 2018. It hasn’t always been a smooth ride for the speedskater. At the Olympic Speed-Skating Trials in Milwaukee, she took a stumble during her race which almost cost her. Jackson came in third place behind Brittany Bowe and Kim Goetz. However, the U.S. only takes the top two to the Olympic Games in the women’s 500m. Luckily for Jackson, Bowe gave up her spot and allowed Jackson the opportunity to compete.
“It’s never too late to start or try something new, and I’m just really glad that I took that step and tried ice skating,” Jackson said on the Today Show.
Leah Dawson, a junior TV and film major at Howard University who wants to go into sports documentary production, said, “It made me feel like the stigma of Black people not doing winter sports is broken away. This inspires other young kids who have never thought to try a winter sport, branch out because they see another Black person excelling in that way.”
Jackson wasn’t the only success story at the Olympics. Meyers Taylor is now the most decorated Black athlete in Winter Olympics history. Her accolades include being the most decorated female bobsledder in Olympic history, the most decorated U.S. bobsledder in Olympic history and the oldest American woman to win an Olympic Medal. Surprisingly, this was never in her original plan.
Meyers Taylor started out pursuing the Olympic Softball team for Team USA after playing at George Washington University. Her tryout did not go as planned, so she sought a new sport she could succeed in instead of giving up. She told Forbes she had declared her “intention to become an Olympian” at nine years old.
She was inspired to start bobsledding when she learned of Vonetta Flowers, the first Black athlete from any country to win a gold medal at a Winter Olympics. Meyers Taylor started as a brakeman and then transitioned into the pilot position.
“It doesn’t hurt to try something new. To me, the definition of an athlete is they can compete in any sport,” Lawrence Aker, a senior at Howard University aspiring to be a sports agent, said, “There are many athletes that have competed in multiple sports. If you know how to use your body and you know how competitive you are, it shouldn’t matter what sport it is.”
In Beijing, Meyers Taylor won silver in the individual event and won the bronze medal with her teammate Sylvia Hoffman, who is also a Black woman, winning her fifth Olympic medal. She won a bronze medal at the 2010 Games and silver in 2014 and 2018, according to The New York Times.
Meyers Taylor told The New York Times, “We want everybody to come out regardless of the color of your skin,” she said. “We want winter sports to be for everybody, regardless of race, regardless of socioeconomic class. I think the more diversity we have, the stronger our sport can be. So hopefully, this is just the start of more and more people coming out and trying winter sports.”
The United States team finished in fifth place overall in the medal count. According to CBS Sports, the team came home with 24 medals, the most they have won since the 25 medals at the Turan 2006 Games.
Copy edited by Jasper Smith