At Happiest, we love hearing about incredible ‘firsts’ in things, well, we’ve just found another. This season’s ‘Dancing With The Stars‘ features the first ever blind competitor in the show. Danelle Umstead may be blind, but she is no stranger to competition.
46-year-old Danelle Umstead represented Team U.S.A at the Paralympic games three times where she won three bronze medals in alpine skiing. You can see right away from her physique that this is an athlete who comes to win.
Danelle may be an incredible skier, but what’s more incredible is that she does it blind. She has a genetic eye condition called retinitis pigmentosa. Danelle is also dealing with multiple sclerosis.
Despite her handicaps, Danelle Umstead remains a fierce competitor who won’t let anything get in her way. That’s why she decided to compete in this season’s Dancing With The Stars.
It is the first time in the show’s history that a blind contestant has ever taken part in the popular dance competition. Danelle is partnered with professional dancer Artem Chigvintsev.
To bring a message to other people with disabilities, Danelle and Artem’s first dance was a foxtrot to Andra Day’s “Rise Up” and the performance was nothing short of breathtaking.
The performance started with Danelle at the top of the stairs where Artem met her and guided her down gracefully. You can see in his eyes how much her safety means to him. But at the same time, Artem and Danelle still want to make the dance flow as beautifully as possible.
Because I can’t see, I touch Artem’s shoulders or his legs to feel the movement and paint myself a picture.
When Artem first learned that his new dance partner was blind, he thought, “How am I going to teach a blind person how to dance?” But after meeting her and seeing her ambition and drive to learn, he knew they were going to make it work.
“This is hands down the biggest challenge I’ve ever had on the show.”
Danelle is finding the dance challenging as you would imagine but it’s not the first time she’s worked with a guide to achieve her goal. She has her faithful service dog to get her about and she has her husband leading her down the mountain when she skis. Now, she has Artem to teach her the dances.
As an alpine skier, I’m able to charge down the mountain at up to 70 miles per hour – without being able to see. My husband guides me down the mountain and one of my proudest moments is winning a bronze medal at the Paralympic games. Now I have a new challenge and it’s dancing.
The duo scored a respectable 18/30 for their first dance and now she’s inspiring many many more people with disabilities to try something new. We hope she goes far in the competition, she’s a real superstar!
Don’t forget to watch Danelle Umstead and Artem’s emotional first dance to ‘Rise Up’ in the video below. Also, at Happiest we love hearing all of your opinions. So please let us know what you thought of the article in the comment section. 🐝