Danelle Umstead competes in the women's giant slalom at the Paralympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 on March 11, 2022 in Yanqing, China.
During the recent Paralympic Winter Games Beijing 2022, most 50-year-olds were probably watching the action from their couches at home. Not Danelle Umstead.
Just weeks after marking her own 50th birthday, Umstead instead was hurtling down the slopes in the visually impaired women’s giant slalom and slalom races at the National Alpine Skiing Center in Yanqing, China, with her husband and guide, Rob Umstead, leading the way.
Umstead placed 13th in the giant slalom and failed to finish the slalom. Yet no one could blame her for feeling good about her performances under the circumstances.
“It feels great to be here again,” Umstead said after the giant slalom. “My struggles over the past four years have been real and tough, and this is the first time I’ve been on the international circuit since the last Games due to injury and multiple sclerosis and everything.
“I feel very blessed to be back. It’s not my best skiing out there, but I skied it and I’m pretty proud of myself because sometimes our mental health gets in the way, and today I tried to overcome that part.”
Competing in her fourth Games with Rob, the three-time Paralympic bronze medalist from Park City, Utah, pointed out that it’s been a long and challenging quad.
Coming off the high of competing in her third Paralympic Winter Games and then on “Dancing with the Stars” in 2018, Umstead missed the following season due to a MS relapse. Then a ski crash in February 2020 left her with a broken tibia and fibula.
“It’s been three surgeries and a lot of stress and a lot of pain,” Umstead said. “I feel everything because I can’t see very well. The feeling in my boots, the feeling in my leg, everything I count on was taken away from me and I had to relearn it because I have MS on that side, too.
“It’s been a constant struggle, but it really feels good to just push out at the start, kind of get my anxiety out of the way a little bit.”
Even after passing the half-century mark, Umstead felt it was important to compete in Beijing.
“I want to represent all women in general, and representing my team is the most important, Team USA,” Umstead said. “We all have things that stand in our way. It could be our age or ability. It could be anything.
“I just want to show that even though we’re not first on race day, we push through and we’re stronger if we’re all together, so we’re better together.”