American skeleton athletes enjoying fast start | ParkRecord.com
YOUR AD HERE »

American skeleton athletes enjoying fast start

18-year-old phenom Hallie Clarke and Olympian Kelly Curtis finish in top 10

Hallie Clarke of the United States runs down the start of the skeleton track at the Utah Olympic Park before getting on her sled during Thursday’s World Cup event. Clarke finished ninth.
David Jackson/Park Record

Hallie Clarke exploded onto the women’s skeleton World Cup scene in late November when she finished tied for second at Whistler in her World Cup debut.

Clarke entered Thursday’s race at the Utah Olympic Park hoping to finish in the top 10. She did just that, coming in ninth. 

Clarke, who is just 18 years old, has enjoyed a hot start to her rookie World Cup season. In addition to Clarke, fellow American skeleton athlete Kelly Curtis, who competed at the Olympics this year, turned in her best World Cup finish, coming in fifth. The United States has two sliders in the top 10 of the World Cup standings to start the year. 



“We struggled with results the last few years, so it feels like the program’s getting a good reset here heading into this new quad,” said Matt Antoine, USA Skeleton’s head coach of performance. “We’ve got a lot of new pieces in place just in terms of the way the program’s structured and how we’re trying to build it and progress it. So, to kind of see some results here right at the beginning of the process are great. It’s a great testament to the athletes, too, with them buying into the process we’re putting into place.”

Clarke was born in Ontario, but she grew up in Buffalo and Massachusetts. She moved back to Canada in 2018 and gave skeleton a go as a young teen. She competed for Canada through last season, including a stop last year in Park City on the North American Cup and the Intercontinental Cup. But with a new four-year cycle beginning this season, she felt it was the right time to make the switch. 



“It’s been awesome so far,” she said. “The team’s great. The support staff, coaching, it’s been amazing, the support.”

Since she started out in the Canadian system, Clarke had the unique position of technically competing in a foreign country while racing on what is essentially her home track in Whistler to start the year. She had the fastest time in the first heat, but her second one wasn’t as fast, dropping her to second. 

“That was amazing, didn’t really feel real for a while,” Clarke said. “I think all the nervousness and excitement of first World Cup to start with and then that on top, it was crazy, but in the best way.”

She didn’t follow up that performance with another podium finish in Park City, a track she doesn’t know as well as Whistler. But that’s what this inaugural season is about for Clarke. She’s learning new tracks while adjusting to life on the World Cup circuit.

“Whistler was a big high, but I knew that would be probably my best finish because I consider that my home track,” Clarke said. “I felt pretty good, but I knew that I don’t have as much experience on this, so it was a lot of learning and working with what we were given.”

Antoine recently took over as the head coach of performance in October, but in that short time, he’s seen the potential Clarke has flashed. While he’s still getting to know her, he noted one of the advantages that she has is she was introduced to the sport at a young age.

“With this sport, it’s great when you can get athletes in at a young age, but it doesn’t necessarily happen a lot,” Antoine said. “It’s not like other sports where you grow up and you do it at school or whatever, you kind of have to find the sport. Fortunately, she was introduced to it when she was 14 years old, and so she had a good base to kind of build upon there. It gives her a huge leg up on other athletes. Just knowing where she’s at right now, there’s a lot of time in the future to continue to improve.”

Curtis, on the other hand, is in her second full season on the World Cup circuit, though she’s 15 years older than Clarke at 33. She is coming off a 2021-22 season that included a trip to Beijing for the Olympics and becoming the first Black athlete to represent the U.S. in skeleton. Curtis came in 21st at the Games.

Kelly Curtis, representing the United States, races down the track on Thursday. Curtis was the highest-placing American with a fifth-place finish.
David Jackson/Park Record

She came into the Park City race looking to bounce back from a tough first race in Whistler that saw her finish in 11th. Curtis was off to a much better start on Thursday, when she ended her first run in seventh place. Her time in the second heat came in as the second-fastest of the second heat at a blazing fast 49.2 seconds, shaving three-tenths of a second off her first run. 

That was enough to push her into fifth, surpassing her previous best finish of sixth last year at St. Moritz, the site of this year’s world championships.

“Feeling pretty excited, this my first time in the World Cup in Park City,” Curtis said. “First time in North America for a World Cup. Excited for the result, glad I was able to get a little better in the second heat. Just love being here in Park City.”

Thursday was also an important rebound performance from Curtis after struggling a bit in Whistler. A more familiar setting – Curtis said she worked in a ski shop for a couple of seasons in Park City – helped produce a better outcome.

“Last week, I think she was a little frustrated with her result, kind of felt like there was more to be desired, left a little on the table,” Antoine said. “Coming here, she’d kind of take a step back, relax a little bit, and then to finish today with a top five – and even on the second heat, she had the second-fastest run. Just a huge result for her. That’s going to be a confidence builder that we can keep building on in future weeks.”

There’s a long way to go until 2026 and plenty of time to improve. But early results have been promising for the American women in skeleton, even if sliders like Curtis and Clarke don’t have a ton of experience.

“We have probably less experience out on the World Cup and the major competitions compared to some of the other teams,” Antoine said. “Right now, I think it’s a lot about kind of building that base and some of the fundamentals of sliding and helping to kind of incrementally improve those over the four years. Also, bringing in the experience of the races. Results like today are just confidence builders, too. So, kind of having that slow growth over the course of the four years, that way when we get to 2026, then we’re ready to go.”

Sports


See more

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Park City and Summit County make the Park Record's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.