by Jim Hinshaw

Erin Jackson is the first black woman to make the U.S. Olympic long-track speed skating team. What makes this an amazing event is the fact that she started on this Olympic quest in September 2017, 4 months before she made the team.


She is a 25-year-old woman who has been involved in and dominated inline skating for about 15 years. Erin is an 11-time world medalist and 47-time national champion, but her latest love is roller derby! She is on the Jacksonville Roller Girls team, earning MVP award in 2014, advancing to the championships in 2015 and 2016.


Back to the Olympic qualifier; she was in the low 40 seconds for the 500-meter race just a couple of weeks ago. She ended up at 39.04 seconds for the run that got her on the team, an amazing improvement in such a short time.


Not only a great athlete, she also got a degree in materials science and engineering from University of Florida, all the while working hard as a jammer on the Roller Derby circuit.


Next up, Shawn White, snowboarding is his thing. He is good, some say even great. Won Gold in half pipe in Torino in 2006, gold again in 2010 in Vancouver. But in this set of games he really defined what a great athlete does under pressure.


Leading up to this Olympics, Shawn had a disaster in New Zealand, attempting to do a maneuver that is incredible, a cab double cork 1440. He crashed, ended up in the hospital for 5 days, bruised lungs, smashed face with 62 stitches needed to pull him back together. In his event, you get three tries to make your mark. On his first run he hit the numbers, moved to first place with a score over 94. Then another competitor hit a 95, moved into first. Shawn came out on his second run, leaned too far back on one segment, crashed and burned.


So he stepped up on the last run, actually did the trick that put him in the hospital on Oct, and nailed it. Got a score of 97.75, and a gold medal. He rocked it. He had to set aside the emotions from the earlier crash, the fact he was on the last run, and to win he had to do the most difficult run of his life.  Lesson here is to not let past opportunities (or failures) stop you from doing your best.


One of the best competitions was the 15 Km Mass Start Biathlon, where you ski, shoot at a faraway target, then ski some more.  Takes over 35 minutes for this to be in the record books.  We saw a battle between Germany’s Simon Schempp and a Frenchman named Fourcade.  Fourcade lost the Gold medal in Sochi 4 years ago by three centimeters, a very tight race.  He missed two targets in the shooting element, and a tumble put his chances to win very slim.  He came off the shooting range for a final sprint, Schempp right behind him.  Actually Schempp was faster on the last segment, gaining right up to the end.  At the last possible second, Fourcade threw his left foot out, got his boot over the line about 6 inches before the German.  Photo finish.  Fourcade did not believe he had won, sat on the ice thrashing about, frustrated.  All he could think of was how frustrated it was in Sochi, to be so close but not get the gold.  Except the photo told the story, he was 6 inches ahead crossing the line.  As Winston Churchill said: never give in…


Actually two lessons here, Schempp said the race was only about 5 meters too short, he could have caught him in the next couple of strides.  So he kept on, even when exhausted, he “never give in” either.


All this brings me to say, have you tried to do something, missed the mark? Failed at putting together the right team, bringing the right product to market at the right time? Most of us have. What counts is not how many times you are knocked down, but how many times you get back up.


Thinking of Erin Johnson, has anyone said: you are too old, too young, no experience, you just don’t have what it takes to win. If Erin had listened to that sort of talk, she would not be the first black woman to be on the US long track speed skating team. Writing this before the final event for her, but just getting there, she is a winner!


So don’t listen to those who say it can’t be done, just do it! Thanks for listening, we’ll talk later.