2022 Winter Olympics

Kelly Curtis' Miami Family ‘Proud' of Skeleton's First Black Athlete in Winter Olympics

Kelly Curtis hit the track Thursday to compete in the skeleton - the sliding sport where athletes ride head-first down a winding track on a sled controlled completely by their body

NBCUniversal Media, LLC

When you hear skeleton, you probably think of Halloween — but, this spooky sport isn’t for the faint of heart.

Believe it or not, a local athlete is putting Miami on the map in the 2022 Winter Olympics while making history along the way.

“It’s exceeding everything we ever thought. We never thought she’d be doing a winter sport," said Debbie Curtis, whose daughter Kelly is competing. "She hates the cold as we do, but it’s worked out. We’ve had to keep a set of winter clothes just to go up there and see her compete.”

The Miami transplant hit the track Thursday to compete in the skeleton - the sliding sport where athletes ride head-first down a winding track on a sled controlled completely by their body.

Skeleton is the third-fastest sport held in the Winter Olympics, with maximum sled speeds reaching about 130 km/hr. 

The niche sport takes place on the same windy, icy course as luge and bobsled.

“I had heard about skeleton. I was a little more familiar with the luge and obviously bobsled," said Kelly's father, Jim. "I still don’t know everything about the sport, but I’m learning as I go along with her.”

As Kelly makes her way to the top of the track, she’s also marking her place in history as the first Black woman to compete for Team USA in the sport. It's an accomplishment her family said is unmatched.

Out of 224 American athletes at the 2022 Winter Olympics, only a handful are athletes of color— but these five Olympic stars are making a difference, on and off the ice.

“There’s so few Black athletes in winter sports. The last Olympics there was like ten and now there’s eight," said Debbie. "She’s the first African American female skeleton and maybe all skeleton – male or female – but she’s definitely the first minority, so she has this pride that she’s a role model, too.”

“I have my fantasies, and then you look at things realistically, and regardless of what happens, I am going to be so proud of the fact that she made the Olympic team, and that she’s shown such progress, such tenacity," said Jim.

Kelly is also the only member of the U.S. Air Force to compete in this year’s Winter Games. The 33-year-old started out as a bobsledder in 2013, before trying skeleton for the first time. Curtis placed sixth during the final World Cup for skeleton in January, putting her on the Olympic team along with Katie Uhlander.

While her family can’t be in Beijing, they said they’ll be cheering with other Olympic families in Utah as her family will cheer Kelly on from right here in the 305.

“It’s been a surreal experience this whole point, so I’m just enjoying it and just trying to be as supportive as I can and I’m really looking forward to it," said Jim. "As long as she does her best, that’s what’s most important.”

For how to watch skeleton events, click here.

Contact Us