There are a lot of titles that can be associated with Kelly Curtis. She could be called an athlete, Olympian, Air Force servicemember, and now she can be called a mother. Curtis recently announced that she and her husband are expecting their first child. The prospect of parenthood brings up feelings of both excitement and nervousness, but she revealed this was a planned pregnancy. So, she’s ready for this life change.
“It is a part of the plan, but it’s one thing to plan for it. It’s another to actually go through with it.”
Curtis has had many experiences in her life, and she’s accomplished a lot as well. The youngest of four children grew up in New Jersey and described herself as a “tom boy.” Her father played in the NFL in the 1970s and went on to become an athletic director in New Jersey. Her mother worked in sales for commercial gyms and fitness centers. All four of the kids grew up involved in sports and were active throughout childhood. Young Kelly was doing her best to hold her own with her two older brothers and older sister.
“I had access to all these different athletic facilities, and I just tried to keep up with my siblings,” she recalled. “Sports was definitely a big deal in my family from a very young age.”
Once she graduated, she started pursuing sliding sports such as bobsledding and skeleton, which requires a single competitor to push a sled with one hand down the beginning of a course before jumping on it and finishing a slide course in the fastest time possible.
“I would describe it as an extreme slip and slide,” said Curtis. “You’re going headfirst around 85 miles per hour with your chin barely off the ground. We’re hitting close to 5 G’s and every course is different.”
One challenge that comes with it is that an athlete can only do two to three runs a day at most because of how it affects the central nervous system. It may seem to be a strange sport to someone new to it, but Curtis excelled at it. That is a top end of 120 runs a year. To make up for that lack of actual practice time, athletes do a lot of visualization in the form of mind runs. They also train as mini sprinters and Olympic weightlifters to develop the speed and explosiveness necessary to perform at their best.
“We need those for an explosive push start.”
While she was competing in sports, her brother had been serving in the Air Force. Curtis had thought of military service in the back of her mind, but she didn’t see an opportunity to serve. That was until she saw the U.S. Army had a World Class Athlete Program. The barrier for entry was to make the National team. When Curtis reached that point, a teammate told her about the Air Force opening up their program so more athletes from different sports could gain entry.
“I was the first civilian that they let in,” she revealed. “I was brought into basic training, then sent to WCAP right away.”
Curtis got to follow in her brother’s footsteps by joining the Air Force while she was pursuing her goals in skeleton. She felt honored to be in the position and wanted to pave the way for others to do the same as well. One of her teammates has gone through a similar experience as well.
“It’s definitely not for everybody, but for the right person, it’s an incredible opportunity.”
Curtis has made the most out of her opportunity and climbed the ranks in her sport. She has won the Intercontinental Cup championship, and she eventually reach the biggest stage in all of sports, the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, China. She has not only worked hard for the success she achieved, but she’s made history as well. When she began her first run in the Olympics, she became the first Black athlete to represent her country in her sport. She didn’t reach the podium in the Olympics, but she left an impact that others can benefit from in the future. She was also named Athlete of the Year for 2021, which is an honor she is very proud of. The template for her success in sport, service, and life has been the same. Do the best she can in a way so others can benefit from her efforts. She’s just living life and making the most of the day in front of her, so the impact and difference she makes isn’t something she has given much thought to. It goes beyond competition alone. People tell her they change their daily habits after seeing her do what she has done.
“Every now and then I will hear about the impact. Someone will say ‘I saw you at the Olympics, and it made me want to make sure that I start eating better and working out more.’”
She and her husband are now preparing for parenthood, but they also have other plans. She still intends to compete once she gives birth, and the 2026 Winter Olympics in Milan, Italy. Curtis and her husband currently live in Italy, which serves as an advantage because she can get used to the climate and be better prepared to compete when the time comes. With her husband also working as her training coach, they’re leaving no stone unturned in her quest to improve and achieve even more success. Not everyone gets to serve their country at the highest levels, so Curtis is doing all she can to make sure she does her best and makes the biggest difference possible.
“I didn’t think she would be in this position. It’s been an incredible journey, and I’m just trying to figure out where I best fit in and best give back.”
Follow Curtis on Instagram @kellycurtisusa