After a mere four months of training on ice, Erin Jackson showed up to the 2018 U.S. Olympic Trials and became the first Black woman to qualify for the U.S. Olympic team in long track speed skating. Now with four more years of experience under her belt, the former inline skater is ready to take the next step. Jackson entered this season with a career-best World Cup finish of ninth, but the 29-year-old Florida native is now enjoying a breakout campaign after winning four of the first five 500m World Cup races this season. In the process, she also set a new American record (36.80 seconds) in the women's 500m. Jackson's sudden ascent has turned her into a gold medal favorite at the Winter Games, where a win would make her the first U.S. woman to earn gold in the 500m since Bonnie Blair in 1994. The last time a U.S. woman won an individual Olympic speed skating medal of any kind was in 2002.
At 33 years old, Brittany Bowe is primed to make her third Winter Olympics her most successful yet. The six-time world champion and 2018 Olympic bronze medalist has set a tremendous pace so far this winter, winning three times on the World Cup circuit between the 1000m and 1500m distances. Bowe, a former collegiate basketball player, is the current world record holder in the 1000m and former world record holder in the 1500m.
SEE MORE: Brittany Bowe rips 1000m track record in Norway World Cup
Along with Bowe and Jackson, Joey Mantia completes of the Ocala, Florida, speed staking triumvirate for Team USA. In PyeongChang, Mantia finished fourth in the 1000m, just .34 from his first career Winter Olympic medal. He’ll be among the contenders in that event, along with the 1500m and the mass start event, in which he is a three-time world champion, including in 2021.
A long time ago, speed skater Ireen Wuest won 3000m gold as a 19-year-old to become the Netherlands’ youngest Olympic champion ever. Now 35, she is the most decorated Olympic athlete her sport has ever seen. Wuest has already revealed plans to retire following the 2022 Games, but not before trying to add to her tally of 11 medals split across four Olympics and four separate events.
Another Dutch skater making his final Winter Olympics appearance, Sven Kramer hopes to cement his legacy as arguably the greatest male speed skater in history. Kramer’s four Olympic gold medals are dwarfed by his staggering collection of 21 world championships won over the past decade and a half. The distance specialist has been invincible in the 5000m, winning gold in the event at each of the last three Winter Olympics.
SEE MORE: PyeongChang 2018: Sven Kramer wins third straight 5000m gold