U.S. Skeleton Team Wraps Up Winter Games With Sixth Place Finish From Katie Uhlaender
by Lisa Costantini
Katie Uhlaender slides during the fourth women's skeleton heat at the Olympics Winter Games Beijing 2022 on Feb. 12, 2022 in Yanqing, China.
Talk about a skeleton crew!
The smallest delegation Team USA sent to the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 was the three-member skeleton trio of Olympic veteran Katie Uhlaender and first-timers Kelly Curtis and Andrew Blaser.
It was the smallest team since the sport was put back on the Olympic program in 2002. Since then, the U.S. sliders have won five medals, with the last one being in 2014.
Regardless of the team's small size, they still had some big moments.
Leading the pack after three days of skeleton racing at the Yanqing National Sliding Centre was Uhlaender, the five-time Olympian who is now the only U.S. woman to compete in five Olympics in a sliding sport.
Going into her last heat, the Breckenridge, Colorado resident who is ranked No. 13 in the world, was in seventh place and looking to secure a medal — something that has eluded her all these years.
“I feel the best I’ve ever felt at an Olympics,” she said after her first two runs. “I feel the most prepared mentally.”
Despite moving up one spot to land in sixth, she could not top her best Olympic finish, which was in 2014 when she placed just off the podium in Sochi to secure the fourth-place spot.
“It’s definitely shown that, despite the troubles and that chaos getting here, the spirit is still strong for the Games,” Uhlaender said. “I wish it had kicked in a little sooner, but it doesn’t matter. When it gets here, you take it.”
Beijing marks her third top 10 Olympic finish. In Torino at her first Olympics, she also had the sixth-best time.
Before competing in these Games, Uhlaender took some time off from the sport — something she had done before. In 2012, she competed at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Weightlifting. The skeleton world titleholder from 2012 has said that she plans to retire after the 2022 Games and pursue a college degree.
Her five consecutive Olympics will tie the record for a U.S. woman’s most Winter Olympic appearances. And that’s not the only title she holds. At 37, she was the oldest U.S. skeleton athlete to compete at a Games.
Want to follow Team USA athletes during the Olympic Games Beijing 2022? Visit TeamUSA.org/Beijing-2022-Olympic-Games to view the competition schedule, medal table and results.
Kelly Curtis slides during the third women's skeleton heat at the Olympics Winter Games Beijing 2022 on Feb. 12, 2022 in Yanqing, China
Her fellow American slider, Kelly Curtis, made her Olympic debut in Beijing and became the first Black skeleton athlete to represent Team USA.
Ranked No. 14 in the world, the Princeton, New Jersey native narrowly missed the last heat. She finished just outside the top 20 to close out her first Olympic experience with a 21 next to her name.
She found herself up high on the wall on her last run, causing her legs to swing and her speed to drop.
But it’s not the last time we’ll see the 33-year-old, who made her world cup debut in November 2021 and had her best finish ever at the final world cup of the season in St. Moritz this past January.
That sixth-place finish in Switzerland is where she punched her ticket to Beijing, securing the second women’s quota spot for the U.S.
Andrew Blaser reacts after the third men's skeleton heat at the Olympics Winter Games Beijing 2022 on Feb. 11, 2022 in Yanqing, China.
Rounding out the skeleton trio was the only American male racer competing in Beijing — the first time the U.S. had sent only one.
Thirty-two-year-old Andrew Blaser competed a day earlier than his teammates, but the Meridien, Idaho native, like Curtis, was unable to land a spot in the final heat after crossing the line in 21st place at his first Games.
Blaser found his way to skeleton after college, having competed as a pole-vaulter and hurdler up until that point. Ranked 28th in the world going into the Games, the publicly out gay athlete made his mark during his first Olympic appearance.
Lisa Costantini is a freelance writer based in Orlando. She has covered Olympic and Paralympic sports for various publications, and has contributed to TeamUSA.org since 2011.