Many years ago, a dream came to mind. A dream to represent my country in a way that presents power, grace and camaraderie. A dream that many people often pursue, but few succeed in achieving. My name is Darryl Payne, Jr., an American skeleton athlete and sprinter/hurdler aspiring to clinch a spot on the United States Olympic Team.
My background as an Austin-based Skeleton lies in a call from the US Olympic Committee to athletes across the country to try and become the Next Olympic Hopefully. Originally, I was selected to compete as a fully funded bobsledder, but I’m much smaller than the mass needed to get that sled moving down the track. Despite my size, I proved to be more than capable, especially compared to an elite group of my peers and even compared to those bigger than me. The Head Coach for USA Bobsled pulled me aside and offered me an unfunded invite to go out to the Skeleton School in Lake Placid, New York. The sport is much better suited for my frame and mass, and as my time on the ice grows, the more promising my journey becomes.
Once the end of Skeleton school neared, there was the Rookie Push Championship and I placed second after only a week of learning the sport.
A competitor of sprints from the age of 7 years old, and well into my career on the high school track, I’ve been very successful athletically. I’ve set records in Louisiana in numerous races and achieved ranks such as Austin’s 2nd Fittest Man and Overall Male Winner with the True Athlete Games in Austin. However, adding this new sport brings about many new challenges—mentally, physically and financially.
The goal is the 2026 Winter Olympic Games.
Currently, no African American has ever repesented the United States at the Winter Olympic Games in Skeleton. An added bonus to this new dream would be to serve as a role model for younger minority generations, that in many cases, believe there are no other options. Serving as a light, and a pioneer for my community in this sport would truly be an honor.