Kelly Curtis — the first Black athlete to compete in skeleton at the Olympics — has commented on the media attention surrounding her biracial heritage
Curtis is making history at the 2022 Winter Olympics as the first Black athlete to represent Team USA in the sport of skeleton. The 33-year-old athlete made headlines for her trailblazing career, and now she’s opening up about the media attention surrounding her race.
“Welp, I didn’t expect my first Olympic Games to create such a buzz around my genotype,” Curtis wrote in an Instagram post. “I think it’s okay to claim this space being bi-racial, Black and White at the same time. Not half and half.”
She added in the caption, “My experience growing up in America is a fully nuanced one that can’t be conveniently sliced into two. I embrace all parts of my heritage. The brave and crazy ones that uprooted everything they knew to move to America voluntarily, and the ones that were ripped from their homeland involuntarily and stripped of their history.”
“It’s understandable that the headlines highlighted one aspect that makes me different on the short list of remarkable USA Skeleton Olympians,” she wrote. “It’s frankly none of my business how other people perceive how I present phenotypically. That is nothing I can control. If it has brought more eyeballs to our crazy sport and sparked a light in someone to look it up then that’s great.”
Curtis went on to explain that she wished she had been exposed to more representation growing up, and how happy she feels when she learns a friend, like basketball coach Adia Barnes, is also mixed race. “Maybe I can be that person for another little mixed girl who always feels like the ‘other,’” she said.
Curtis completed the first two skeleton competitions at the Winter Olympics in Beijing on Saturday, 11 February. Skeleton is a winter sport that involves riding a skeleton bobsled down a frozen track while lying face down and head-first. Curtis, who was born in New Jersey, is also a member of the Air Force and excels in track and field, bobsled, and basketball, according to the Team USA website.