U.S. Ski & Snowboard is highlighting HERoic trailblazers all through our winter sports activities, each previous and current. A HERoic trailblazer is a lady athlete who has gone above and past in her sport, shifting the game ahead by grit and willpower and galvanizing the subsequent technology of ladies athletes.
Danelle Umstead, alumna of the U.S. Para Alpine Ski Group, embodies what it means to be a HERoic Trailblazer. As one of many first and most dominant Para alpine ski racers in historical past, she has pushed the boundaries for her sport on and off the slope.
Via her work as a motivational speaker and the founding father of the Sisters in Sport Basis, Danelle has promoted accessibility and paved the way in which for the subsequent technology of disabled athletes.
Danelle’s motto is “residing the unimaginable day-after-day.” When she was 13, she was recognized with retinitis pigmentosa and early onset macular degeneration, a situation that results in complete blindness. Over time, she misplaced her central imaginative and prescient and most of her peripheral imaginative and prescient.
Regardless of her athletic success that we all know as we speak, Danelle’s snowboarding journey didn’t begin till she was 29 when her dad satisfied her to go to a neighborhood hill in New Mexico with him as her information. She was hooked as quickly as she felt the wind on her face as she skied down a run for the primary time. Over the subsequent few years, Umstead realized find out how to ski with a information earlier than assembly her future information and husband, Rob Umstead. Rob grew up alpine ski racing and labored as a ski coach throughout the USA earlier than touchdown in New Mexico the place the pair met and instantly clicked. Assembly a information that matches an athlete’s wants is hard by itself, however discovering a husband-wife pair is a very particular state of affairs.
Not solely do a ski guides assist blind athletes ski down the hill, however in addition they assist people of their on a regular basis lives. When snowboarding, Rob skis barely forward of Danelle and consistently talks to her by headsets inside their helmets. He tells her concerning the course, the terrain and the rest she is about to come across. They discover probably the most success after they keep tight and hold fixed communication. Danelle says that always Rob is aware of what she wants earlier than she is aware of it.
The pair shortly discovered their groove, and Danelle was decided to change into knowledgeable athlete. Collectively, they created Group Vision4Gold, and the Paralympic dream started. Exterior of their Paralympic mission, in 2007, Danelle and Rob turned mother and father to their son Brocton. The household is accomplished by Windy, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. When not on snow, they like to hike, paddleboard, camp, and go on highway journeys collectively.
A Story of Perseverance
In multiple approach, the partnership between Danelle and Rob was successful. Danelle and Rob went to their first Paralympics in 2010 and took house two bronze medals in downhill and mixed.
Shortly after the Video games in Vancouver, Danelle was recognized with a number of sclerosis, a degenerative nerve illness that complicates the physique’s communication with the mind. The illness paralyzed half of her physique, and she or he was pressured to relearn find out how to stroll and finally to ski once more. Regardless of battling the signs of a number of sclerosis day-after-day, Danelle rehabbed and was capable of return to snowboarding, shortly getting again to successful World Cup races with Rob and successful U.S. Ski & Snowboard’s Adaptive Athlete of the 12 months award, setting the tone for the approaching seasons.
The pair earned a spot on the 2014 Paralympic Group, the place she left with one other bronze medal within the mixed. Profitable back-to-back medals on the Paralympics cemented Danelle’s identify as probably the greatest adaptive skiers and the one to beat shifting ahead.
The pair went on to compete in two extra Olympics, two extra World Championships and numerous World Cup races. Over the course of their 14-year aggressive profession, they gained three Paralympic bronze medals, 4 World Cup medals (two silver and two bronze), two general Crystal Globes, and had 50+ World Cup podiums. And never solely was Umstead only a star inside the ski world! In 2018, Umstead turned one of many celebrities competing on season 27 of Dancing with the Stars, changing into the first-ever blind contestant on the present.
A Lasting Legacy
All through her profession, Danelle found the loneliness that may include being a disabled athlete and the significance of getting a strong assist system. She discovered a tight-knit group by snowboarding that helped her to push by troublesome occasions in her profession, turned captivated with offering this assist to others and inspiring the subsequent technology of disabled athletes to take part in sports activities. In 2020, Umstead created the Sisters in Sports activities Basis to supply mentorship and teaching programs to girls athletes with disabilities.
Danelle can also be a profitable motivational speaker, empowering leaders and groups to beat obstacles to do the unimaginable day-after-day. Her contributions to snowboarding and Para sports activities as a complete are immeasurable, and she or he continues to indicate her dedication to empowering the subsequent technology of disabled athletes. Due to Danelle, Para alpine snowboarding is a extra welcoming and accessible group than earlier than