Park City Paralympic skier Danelle Umstead to compete on ‘Dancing with the Stars’
Paralympic medalist Danelle Umstead will compete during the 27th season of “Dancing with the Stars.” The season will kick off at 7 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 24, and on Tuesday, Sept. 24, on ABC. For information, visit http://www.abc.go.com.
Danelle Umstead is a multi-medal-winning visually impaired Paralympic alpine skier with multiple sclerosis. And she hasn’t let that stop her from winning medals.
Umstead won bronze in the Vancouver and Sochi Paralympic Games and placed fifth in the Super G in Pyeongchang. In addition, Umstead and her ski guide, her husband Rob Umstead, have won 50 World Cup medals.
On Monday, the skier will tackle what she says is one of the most difficult challenges of her adult life, something that has nothing to do with flying down the slopes — competing on the new season of “Dancing with the Stars.”
For the show’s season opener, set to air Wednesday and Tuesday on ABC, Umstead and her dancing partner Artem Chigvintsev will dance two different foxtrots, which they have been rehearsing for the past two weeks, she said, A foxtrot is a flowing dance that is akin to the waltz but done in four-four time, and Umstead said learning how to dance it was a challenge.
“Dancing is not what I do,” she said with a laugh. “Ski racing is what I do, and I’ve always tried to muscle through that. So I’m not used to doing such a beautiful, elegant and slow-moving expressive thing.”
Umstead said it was hard to focus on how she presents herself.
“You have to be aware of everything — fingers, arms, putting your head back and keeping your shoulders down,” she said. “It seems like it’s never ending, and I found that once I felt like I had something down, I lose something else.”
Umstead said Chigvintsev is the dance coach she needs.
“He’s amazing, because he’s not only dealing with me being visually impaired, but I also have multiple sclerosis,” Umstead said. “So he has adapted to teaching someone with visual impairment, but also someone who has a disease that attacks the brain and body.”
Umstead appreciates that Chigvintsev doesn’t give her any slack.
“He doesn’t back off, and I like that because I’m an athlete,” she said. “I’m a perfectionist and I’m used to training very hard.“
Umstead was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerate and progressive eye condition, when she was 13, although she had been wearing glasses since she was 2.
“I have lost central vision in both eyes, and my peripheral vision is closing into my central,” she said.
While she still can see shapes, she can’t see details.
“I can see things that are super zoomed in,” Umstead said. “I can read a text as long as it’s not a long text, otherwise I will use a speech app.”
The skier was contacted a few months ago by ABC to compete on “Dancing with the Stars.”
“I thought I was being ‘punk’d,’ but once I figured out it was the real deal, I really wanted to be a part of it,” she said.
Now that she’s on the program, Umstead wants to use her appearance as a way to inspire people.
“My motto is live your impossible every day,” she said. “I like showing people that they should live their impossible every day. Even though it seems scary and intense, you can still go out there and give your best.
“I need to just let go and learn to be vulnerable, which is tough,” Umstead added. “I will be showing a side of me that isn’t the super tough athlete. It’s a side that I haven’t put out there for the world to see.”
Competing on “Dancing with the Stars” is a dream come true for Umstead.
“In 2007, I watched ‘Dancing with the Stars’ for the first time while standing four inches from my television,” she said. “I said at that time that I wanted to be the first blind contestant on the show, and here I am. I appreciate the support of my hometown Park City, and I hope everyone will vote for team Blind Faith.”
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