The mission of Kellie Delka ('11) as an athlete in the sport of skeleton is to slide face-first on a tiny sled down an ice track for at least 1,000 meters. It's like going down a roller coaster with no brakes or seat belt. And it doesn't scare her at all.
"I get so fired up when I'm top of the track," she says. "I'm so ready to slide."
Having earned several high places in international competitions, Delka is determined to make the Olympic team in 2022. She has endured endless practices and is spurred by lifelong ambition to reach her goal.
"Since I was little, I've always been fascinated with the Olympics and sports," she says, noting that she participated in gymnastics as a young girl and once dressed up as track star Florence Griffith-Joyner for Halloween. As a kinesiology student at UNT, she participated in the pole vault and also was a UNT cheerleader.
Delka was intrigued when former Mean Green football and track star Johnny Quinn (ʼ06) was working to make the Olympic bobsledding team, and Quinn gave her advice about what she needed to work on. In 2011, she went to a combine in Dallas hosted by the USA Bobsled and Skeleton Federation and was tested for strength and quickness in sprints, weightlifting, standing broad jump and a between-the-leg shot put toss. From there, she went to a push championship to compete and learn more about the sport, and she attended a driving school in 2011-12. While she didn't make the Team Trials for 2012-13, she didn't give up. Instead, she trained all season and performed so well at the next nationals that she made the Team Trials for 2013-14.
She participated in the North American Cup tour and has been competing in the Europe and Intercontinental Cup tours for the last four years. She was third overall in the European tour and in 2017 placed sixth and ninth during her two races at the European Cup. Not bad for someone who doesn't like cold temperatures.
"I don't really like winter," says Delka, who grew up in Collinsville. "But I absolutely love the sport. I'll weather as much as I can."
Since participation can cost up to $10,000 a year, Delka has a GoFundMe page and seeks sponsors. Her parents built a dry push track in their backyard for her.
"It's definitely a long road, but it's totally worth it," she says. "You're only young once, so you live it up while you can."