Black History Month February 2022: Kelly Curtis

We are highlighting examples of Black excellence every day this February….and beyond! Feel free to send us suggestions!

Meet the first Black skeleton athlete to compete for the U.S. at the Olympics

BEIJING — Skeleton is a heart-racing, adrenaline-fueled event where a single racer flies face-first down a frozen track, sometimes going more than 80 mph, belly-down on a sled.

Kelly Curtis is quick to acknowledge this sport is “crazy.” That doesn’t make her love it any less.

The event has been a mainstay at the Winter Games since 2002. At the Beijing Winter Olympics, just three Americans will compete for a medal — and Curtis is one of them.

As soon as Curtis shot herself down a topsy-turvy track in Beijing on Friday, she made history.

Curtis is the first Black athlete, man or woman, to represent the U.S. at the Olympics in skeleton. The 33-year-old is also the only member of the U.S. Air Force at this year’s Winter Games.

Curtis joins a small group of Black athletes competing for the U.S. at the Beijing Olympics.

The inherent pressure of being “the first” and “only” isn’t fazing her, she said.

“I am treating this like every race,” she said.

After the start of her two-day event Friday morning, Curtis stands 18th. Her teammate Katie Uhlaender is eighth. They are scheduled to next compete for the final round of skeleton runs at 9:55 p.m. Beijing time (8:55 a.m. EST) on Saturday.