I’m Danelle Umstead, Paralympian ski racing champion and motivational speaker.
At thirteen, I was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, a genetic eye condition that results in total blindness.
At twenty-nine, nearly blind, my father offered to take me skiing for the first time. I stood atop a mountain in Northern New Mexico my father a silouette in front of me wearing a bright orange ski bib. I took a deep breath.
And off we went down the slope.
In the 3 minutes it took to ski down that mountain, I found my passion.
A few years later I met my husband, Rob Umstead, and with him as my guide we became the Paralympic ski racing Team Vision4Gold.
Rob and I won two bronze medals at the 2010 Vancouver Paralympic Winter Games. By year-end, I was awarded the 2010 Athlete of the Year by the National Sports Center for the Disabled.
I was on top of the world.
Then I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a nerve disease that paralyzed half my body. I first had to relearn how to walk, and then how to ski again. In spite of this, Rob and I continued competing in Alpine Skiing World Cup races …and winning!
In 2011, I was named Adaptive Athlete of the Year by the United States Ski and Snowboard Association.
In 2014 we earned a spot in the Sochi Winter Paralympic Games where we earned a bronze medal.
Rob and I took the bronze again in the 2017 World Para Alpine Skiing Championships in Tarvisio, Italy, in the Super-G and with a 4th place finish in downhill.