Team Vision4Gold is all about making dreams reality! The team includes Danelle and Rob Umstead, who dream big and believe anything is possible.
Vision means “to have sight, an idea, or a dream.” Initially created with the goal of winning gold at the 2010 Paralympics, Team Vision4Gold is still alive, with a new focus on the 2014 Paralympic Games in Sochi, Russia. They continue to inspire others with disabilities to believe in themselves.
Trusted guide dog. Fun loving lab. You couldn’t ask for a more perfect mix in a canine companion. Trained by Guide Dogs for the Blind, Bettylynn was matched with Danelle in September 2008.
Since then, she has helped to give Danelle incredible independence. After all, you can’t tell your cane to ‘find the elevator’ or ‘remember this place.’
From their first days together, Bettylynn was a rockstar guide: if taught to find something, she’d find it. While most guide dogs need to stay in one place and learn a routine, Bettylynn learns quickly and adapts wherever her international travels take her. A good quality for a dog that’s never been in one place for more than a month!
It’s no surprise that Bettylynn knows her way around a resort. When asked to ‘find the ski rack’ one busy afternoon when every ski rack seemed full, Bettylynn found the one empty slot for Danelle’s skis. In 2010, she was the first dog to represent USA at the Winter Paralympic Games.
Like Danelle, Bettylynn’s ready for any challenge. She loves to work, loves to play and is a part of the family: both the Umsteads and the U.S. Adaptive Ski Team.
[Translation: I go crazy for ring around the rosy with the family!]
Elite athlete. Wife. Mother. Visually Impaired Skier. Danelle has her hands full… and that’s exactly how she likes it! Whether she’s training for gold or educating others about her disabilities, her spark for life is contagious.
At the age of 13, Danelle was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa, a genetic eye condition where the retina progressively degenerates and eventually causes blindness. Currently, her spotted vision limits her sight to less than five feet, and even then, only contrasting colors without any level of detail. There is no chance of return vision, nor is there a cure.
Danelle was also recently diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS), an autoimmune disease that affects the brain and central nervous system. Though an unexpected challenge at the onset of the 2010/11 season, she refuses to let the diagnosis keep her away from what she loves: ski racing.
Danelle first started adaptive skiing in 2000 with her father as her guide. Despite worsening vision, the more she skied, the more she craved speed and steeper terrain. And racing was a natural fit for this self-proclaimed adrenaline junkie. She competed in her first Paralympic Games in 2010, taking home two bronze medals, in the Downhill and Super Combined events.
Danelle lives in Park City, Utah, and trains with the National Sports Center for the Disabled in Colorado, but is always on the move, training and competing everywhere from Italy to Canada.
“Without vision you can do anything – it’s just done differently.”
Ski racing veteran. Husband. Father. VI guide. On and off the hill, Rob is Danelle’s trusted partner.
Rob watched his wife struggle over the course of several seasons to find a guide who would be a good fit. In the 2008/09 season, he decided to be part of her “vision” and committed himself to guiding her full time, serving as the consistent partner that would be dedicated to success.
Rob has been involved in ski racing for 25 years. He started as a young athlete in Vermont and raced competitively for the University of Massachusetts. Since college, Rob has been a race coach in New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Colorado.
Rob’s right at home being back on the athlete side of the race course. He thrives on the training and welcomes the challenges that go into being a successful Visually Impaired (VI) team.
“VI Ski racing is a team sport. Our success is a result of the trust that we have in one