Black Woman Makes Winter Olympics History In Daring Skeleton Event


Photo: Getty Images

While the 2022 Winter Olympics are underway, history is still being made in some not widely known, daring events.

Since the 2002 Winter Olympics, the Skeleton Event has brought athletes from around the world to compete by flying down an icy track on their stomachs on a sled, reaching speeds surpassing 80 mph.

New Jersey native Kelly Curtis made history Friday (February 11), becoming the first-ever African American representing Team USA to compete in the event.

In an interview with NPR, Curtis admitted that the sport she loves is "crazy" though the pressure of being first and so far the only Black athlete to represent the nation in the event isn't phasing her.

"I'm treating this like any other race," Curtis told the outlet. She's also the only member of the US Air Force competing in the games.

Before competing in skeleton, Curtis used to compete in the bobsled event. At a 2013 practice, Curtis noticed the skeleton athletes using the same facility and became intrigued.

"It looked like they were having way more fun. I was really intrigued by it," she said. After taking a spin at driving the sled, Curtis says she fell in love with it "instantly." An added bonus is that the skills she learned from bobsled transferred to skeleton.

In the sport, athletes have to be "explosive," running as fast at they can before jumping onto the moving sleds to slide on the icy track.

Curtis' attributes her journey to the Olympics to growing up in a household full of athletes. Her mother worked in the local fitness community, and her dad is a former NFL player. All of her siblings also played sports.

"My parents understood the power of sports, but they never pressured us to be the absolute best," Curtis explained.

"I've had imposter syndrome in this sport, given my background," Curtis, who is biracial, added later, stating that her "skin ton challenges the notion of being Black in America and what that carries."

"I'm either not Black enough (an actual thing a teammate has said), or I need to speak on behalf of all Black Americans," Curtis said. All of the debate, she said, is "exhausting."

Curtis said that she decided to keep her focus on the game and hopes to inspire others to get involved with it.

"Hopefully my exposure in this sport has the ability to inspire others who may be in a similar position, " she said. "I'm the first, but I'm definitely not the last."

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