Atje Deelstra was born as the eldest of four siblings in a farmers family. As a teenager she did gymnastics, athletics and basketball, but finally chose speed skating. At the age of 16, she already won a junior title of Friesland and several cash prizes in the Netherlands. In 1962, she married Jelle Keulen (23 November 1931 – 28 July 2011), a farmer with whom she had three children born between 1963 and 1966.
When the Thialf arena opened in 1967 in Heerenveen, Keulen-Deelstra went there to work on a comeback. She quickly made much progress, but she was told over and over again that she was too old. Not a member of the Dutch speed skating team, she won the Dutch Allround Championships in 1970 at the age of 32, beating Dutch skating team members such as Ans Schut and multiple world champion Stien Kaiser. That same year, she became World Allround Champion. More successes soon followed when in 1972, she became Dutch, European, and World Allround Champion, a feat she then repeated the following two years (1973 and 1974). In addition, at the 1972 Winter Olympics in Sapporo, she won one silver and two bronze medals.
In 1975, Keulen-Deelstra switched to marathon skating and she became Dutch Champion in that discipline five times. She won her last Dutch Marathon Championships title in 1980 when she was 42 years old. In 1997, just a few weeks after having been injured in a traffic accident, Keulen-Deelstra participated in the Elfstedentocht. She died of a cerebral infarction in 2013.
In the 1980s and early 1990s, her daughter Boukje Keulen (born 2 December 1963) also was a successful skater. Like her mother, Boukje went from short track through long track ("regular") to marathon speed skating.
An overview of medals won by Keulen-Deelstra at important championships she participated in, listing the years in which she won each:
|Championships||Gold medal||Silver medal||Bronze medal|
|Winter Olympics||1972 (1,000 m)||1972 (1,500 m)
1972 (3,000 m)
1972 1973 1974
1972 1973 1974
Over the course of her career, Keulen-Deelstra skated 2 world records:
|1,500 m||2:17.2||14 March 1970||Inzell|
|Mini combination||182.805||16 January 1972||Inzell|
|Preceded by||Dutch Sportswoman of the Year
|Preceded by||Flagbearer for Netherlands||Succeeded by|