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Danelle and Rob Umstead headed to Beijing for their 4th Paralympics games

Courtesy of Danelle Umstead

Park City residents Danelle and Rob Umstead are are their way to Beijing China today to compete in their fourth Paralympic Winter Games.

The Paralympic games will be held March 4-13 at the same venues as the recently concluded Beijing Olympics. Danelle Umstead who just celebrated her 50th birthday has qualified to compete in all five alpine skiing events in the visually impaired class B2.

Umstead was diagnosed with early onset macular degeneration when she was just 13. Her father introduced her to adaptive skiing when she was 29 and she’s never looked back. Since 2008, her husband Rob has served as her guide. The team won two bronze medals at the 2010 Paralympics in Vancouver. Shortly after, she found out that she also has multiple sclerosis, which will dictate which events she will be competing in over the next few weeks.

“I'm qualified for all five events and hoping that my body holds up for all five events,” Danelle said. “I'm just gonna have to see how the schedule works out and play it that way. And hope to do all five.”

Her best events are the speed events, but she’s struggling mentally after a bad crash two years ago...

“I broke my tibia and fibula and had three surgeries in 2020,” Danelle explained. “So I haven't been in a downhill since. And I was already qualified, so that was good news, with my points. So, there's a lot of mental toughness that I get to work through. And I know how to do that. And I just got to put it into play while I'm there and not think about the negatives and all about the positives and enjoying myself.”

She relies on Rob to guide her down the mountain and through the gates...

“He skis in front of me,” Danelle said. “We use headsets in our helmets and he's telling me when to start my turn, when to move off my feet. He's counting down jumps, talking about the terrain. And he's guiding me the whole way. I have very limited vision. I can't see anything that moves, so I'm relying on his voice and our communications to get me down the hill. And we're traveling from anywhere from 40 to 70 miles per hour as we’re skiing. So we're doing that together as a team. Everybody says, well, Danielle, gosh, I don't see how you do that. But Rob has to ski in front of me and has to turn around and make sure our spacing is good and ski fast. I think his job is a lot harder than mine.”

You can follow Danelle’s journey in Beijing on her social media accounts @danelleumstead or her website Vision4Gold.com

Two other National Ability Center athletes are also competing at the Beijing Paralympics: Mathew Brewer who competes on a monoski and Andrew Haraghey who has cerebral palsy and competes in the standing ski races.