Park City’s Umstead Paralympians are Beijing Opening Ceremony flag bearers

BEIJING — Danelle and Rob Umstead were voted in by their peers to be the Team USA flag bearers at Friday’s Opening Ceremony of the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games. The married couple is at their fourth Games as Danelle has qualified to race all five Alpine Skiing events in the visuion impaired (VI) classification with husband Rob as her guide.

Their son, Brocton, will have to watch from home this time, having been to past Paralympics to cheer on his parents, but his friends from Treasure Mountain Junior High will be his support team in town.

I asked Danelle if it was harder for him or them not to have him in Beijing due to the pandemic protocols. She said, “I’d guess that we are more bummed than Brocton. He had a great time at the 2014 games and would have loved to come to China. Now that he is a teenager, he enjoys hanging with his friends in PC and has so much at home to keep him busy. We, on the other hand, still have a tough time being away from him.”

Since the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) has disallowed overseas spectators to attend these Beijing Paralympics, it’s serendipitous that Danelle is one of the only international athletes who get to have a family member right alongside her. She said, “I hadn’t thought about it in that positive light but will now as we always draw confidence and support from family.”

Danelle is on Park City’s National Ability Center Adaptive Ski Team. She has Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and has come back from several surgeries over the past four years after a severely broken leg from a ski racing crash.

The first VI athlete to appear on Dancing With The Stars, Danelle is proud to be a part of Team Toyota and has started a Park City-based nonprofit called the Sisters in Sports Foundation. Within which, she can continue to inspire young, female athletes with disabilities just as she’s been inspired by countless others while providing scholarships for those following in her footsteps.

Rob owns Utah’s premier kiteboard/snowkite school business in Park City called Uintah Kiting.

In the Salt Lake 2002 Paralympic Opening Ceremony at Rice Eccles Stadium, Eric Weihenmeyer, the first VI athlete to successfully climb Mount Everest, carried the Paralympic torch guided by his dog.

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