American Olympian Kelly Curtis finished 21st in women’s skeleton at the Winter Games in Beijing, narrowly missing the cut to compete for a medal in the final heat.

Curtis, an airman first class and first-time Olympian, recorded a combined time of 3:09.23 across three rounds on the mile-long ice track — 0.38 seconds behind her nearest opponent and 3.24 seconds behind the third heat’s first-place finisher, German Hannah Neise.

She needed to land in the top 20 on Feb. 12 to qualify for the fourth heat later that day, but finished one spot short.

USA's Kelly Curtis takes part in the women's skeleton training at the Yanqing National Sliding Centre during the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Yanqing on February 8, 2022. (Daniel Mihailescu/AFP)

Curtis crossed the finish line in 1:02.94 in the first heat, in 1:03.05 in the second and in 1:03.24 in the third, reaching nearly 77 mph at her fastest.

The 33-year-old, who is biracial, is the first Black skeleton athlete to represent Team USA at the Olympics.

“[I] didn’t really see too many people that look like me or had a similar background,” Curtis said Feb. 9 in a Team USA press release. “It just never seemed like a door that would be open.”

The enlisted airman will now slide into her first job with the 31st Communications Squadron at Aviano Air Base in Italy, where she’ll secure computers and other networks against attacks. It’s the “only communications squadron south of the Alps supporting permanently assigned fighter aircraft” for the U.S. Air Force in Europe, the service said.

Curtis is hoping for a repeat appearance at the 2026 Winter Games in Milan, while also working to commission as an officer in the Air Force.

“I know I need to do a lot in my career field to earn that [officer] spot,” she told Air Force Times on Jan. 24. “I’m not sure exactly how I’ll get down both of those paths, but I am working on it.”

Airman 1st Class Kelly Curtis poses for a photo at Aviano Air Base, Italy, Jan. 18, 2022. Curtis will compete in women's skeleton for Team USA at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. (Senior Airman Noah Sudolcan/Air Force)

Rachel Cohen is the editor of Air Force Times. She joined the publication as its senior reporter in March 2021. Her work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Frederick News-Post (Md.), Air and Space Forces Magazine, Inside Defense, Inside Health Policy and elsewhere.

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