An Athlete With Insight
I’m Danelle Umstead, full-time profession alpine skier, Paralympian, and international speaker.
At thirteen, I was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa
, a genetic eye condition that progressively degenerates the retina and results in total blindness.
At twenty-nine and all but blind, my father offered to take me skiing. A crazy idea, of course, but what did I have to lose? So I stood atop a mountain in Northern New Mexico in full ski gear, my father, a vague shape in front of me wearing a bright orange ski bib.
And off we went down the hill.
In that first instant of downward movement I learned a valuable lesson—trust—to rely on my father’s voice, to listen and trust he wouldn’t lead me into harms way.
Today, when I share my story with successful organizations at company events and conferences, I highlight another insight—that most of us underestimate ourselves.
Those around us, on the other hand, can see us more clearly, can in fact watch us achieve our potential in ways we often think are out of reach.
It turned out I loved skiing, even if I couldn’t see where I was going. After a couple of years of skiing with a guide, I met my husband, Rob Umstead, a ski coach and former collegiate ski racer, and not long after we married.
In 2009 I joined the ski team at the National Ability Center in Park City, Utah, honed my skills as a racer, and with my husband, Rob, as my guide became the Paralympic ski racing Team Vision4Gold.
Living A Dream
A year later, in 2010, Rob and I won two bronze medals at the Vancouver Paralympic Winter Games, and I couldn’t be happier. 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 wreaks havoc on a body—a setback, but not a show-stopper. Even in the face of blindness and now MS, my husband and I continued racing.
In 2011, I was named Adaptive Athlete of the Year by the United States Ski and Snowboard Association. For the next couple of years we raced in Alpine Skiing World Cup races. In 2014 we earned a spot in the Sochi Winter Paralympic Games where we took bronze and quickly became the team to beat.
Rob and I captured the bronze medal in the 2017 World Para Alpine Skiing Championships in Tarvisio, Italy, in the super-G and a 4th place finish in downhill.
Our sight is set to represent USA at the
2018 Winter Parlympic Games in Pyeonchang, South Korea