She’s waited a long time for this opportunity!
Kelly Curtis just made history as the first Black U.S. skeleton racer to compete in the Olympics, The New York Times reports.
Curtis has always been an athlete, running track and field at Tulane and Springfield College before making the shift to skeleton, a sport where athletes race headfirst down an icy track at speeds up to 90 mph. Curtis would use her down time to take on various small gigs and drum up funds to secure training to help perfect her skeleton sliding skills. According to Team USA, a couple of years ago she decided to join the United States Air Force, completing basic training before focusing on training for the Olympics.
“So there was a lot of mutual respect. I respected the women I was going through basic training with right away… if you tell anybody you’re training for the Olympics, then all of a sudden they have a lot of respect for you as well,” Curtis previously told reporters.
Despite the long shot of actually making it, Curtis never gave up, continuing to train while finding ways to support herself. Now, the 33-year-old has added her name to the history books, becoming the first Black American skeleton racer to compete in the Olympics. She made her debut on Friday, just four years after Simidele Adeagbo made history as the first Black African woman to compete in the sport at the Olympics. Curtis said that while role models were few and far in between, she held onto the ones she could in hopes that she would one day join that illustrious league of athletes.
“I didn’t really have too many people to look up to in the skeleton world, but I did in bobsled. I’m standing on the shoulders of giants and trying to inspire the next generation,” Curtis explained.
In 2017, Nigeria made history, debuting their first ever women bobsled team in the Olympics. Jamaica has also made a return in the Winter Olympics, their bobsled team returning to compete for the first time in over two decades. Representation like that is what kept Curtis going, seeing other people performing in similar sports. Now, she gets to become the next role model for a newer class of athletes. Curtis will join veteran Olympic athlete Katie Uhlaender and Andrew Blaser, the three representing the U.S. at the Winter Games. The three-man skeleton crew is the smallest the U.S. has ever sent to compete in the sport since the 2002 Olympics.
Still, Curtis is excited, getting ready to live out a longtime dream, something she says she won’t be able to believe until she hits the ice.
“I’m still not going to believe it until that green light goes for Race Day 1,” said Curtis.
Congratulations, Kelly! We’ll be rooting for you!
Photo Courtesy of Molly Choma/Team USA