Mystique Ro lives for the thrill of the competition.
Graduating from Queens in December 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in Relational Communications and a hefty amount of track-and-field experience, she has since taken up skeleton, a Winter Olympic sledding sport in which participants race on compact toboggans with metal runnings. She races with the United States National team as her eyes are set steadfast on her prize, a ticket to the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, China.
Ro described being a part of U.S. Skeleton as “a very tightly knit community.” 30 men and 20 Women compete for one of three spots each on the country’s four circuit teams: World Cup, Intercontinental, Europa and North America. The World Cup is the highest level of competition, followed by the Intercontinental Cup, and then the two continental cups. “Everyone comes from different backgrounds, but is shooting for a common goal of making a higher tier and ultimately the Olympic team,” she said.
Ro spent last season competing in the North American Cup. She said the process was a learning experience for her. “I tested out different equipment, learned some fundamentals on driving and created a lot of memories from my first year touring on the North American Cup Circuit.” She is heading off to Lake Placid, New York, for the upcoming season, excited about her chances and a new sled she will get to use.
“I love the feeling of competition,” said Ro. She competes with a purpose and ferocity only the best athletes can obtain, pushing herself both during her competitions and in training throughout the offseason. She is always striving to make herself a better performer.
This does not mean Ro is only in it for personal glory. The smaller community of skeleton, as compared to other, more known sports, allows for the 50-ish participants to become well acquainted with one another. Ro harbors a deep respect for her sometimes-teammates, sometimes-foes on the track. “No matter how my performance goes I will always cheer for my teammates and other athletes,” she said. “Each run and training session is a step forward for the sport.“
Skeleton popped up in the Winter Olympics twice during the 20th century before being made a permanent addition in 2002. Elite level riders can hit speeds up to and over 80 miles per hour.
Ro was initially dismissive of skeleton, first learning of it during the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. “I watched it and immediately wrote if off as a sport for crazy people,” she said. “Flying down the track head first going 80mph? No thanks.”
She did not discover her love of it until after college. She ran track throughout college, and was not ready to leave the thrill of the competition behind when her eligibility ran out. On the suggestion of her coach and inspired by seeing the late U.S. bobsledder Steven Holcomb on television during the 2010 Winter Olympics, she decided to give it a try.
She has not looked back since.
Images courtesy of Mystique Ro and Jason Hicks-Moriarty.