Plano native hoping for fourth U.S. Winter Paralympics despite vision impairment, other setbacks

If it’s something you really want, you have to keep going, Danelle Umstead told NBC5.

Plano native Danelle Umstead has refused to let vision impairment, a multiple sclerosis diagnosis and other setbacks keep her from the sport she loves.

She is now hoping to compete in the U.S. Paralympic team competition in March, which will be her fourth appearance in the event. Umstead expects to know by mid-February whether she will compete, KXAS-TV (NBC5) reported.

Umstead navigates the slopes at speeds of up to 80 mph with her husband, Rob, who serves as her sighted guide. They communicate with each other via headsets in their helmets, according to NBC5.

“People always ask me, I can’t believe you do this with your husband, and I think through sport it has taught us to communicate,” Umstead told the TV station.

At age 2, Umstead moved to Plano with her parents, the report states. Her vision problems were evident shortly afterward.

She was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, a genetic eye condition that leads to total blindness, according to NBC5. Her central vision deteriorated by the time she graduated from Plano ISD and all of her usable vision was gone by her 20s.

When her mother died from cancer, Umstead left North Texas, NBC5 reported.

At age 29, her father, Peter, introduced her to adaptive skiing, something he learned about while living in New Mexico, according to the report.

Umstead instantly loved the sport and knew she found the perfect fit, NBC5 reported. But her fight was not over.

According to the report, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis after she won two bronze medals at the 2010 Vancouver Paralympic games.

In 2014, Umstead won her third bronze medal at the Sochi games.

After a relapse at the 2018 PyeongChang games she had to sit out for an entire season.

And in 2020, Umstead broke a leg during a crash on the slopes.

“So the whole journey coming back and trying to get prepared for the games in Beijing has been insane,” said Umstead, who lives, trains and races in Park City, Utah.

“I just believe that no matter where you are in life, if there’s something you really want, and something you’re really passionate about it, why wouldn’t I get back up and keep on going, right?” she told the TV station.

The Winter Paralympic Games run March 4-13 and can be viewed on NBC and Peacock.

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