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Stephani Victor of the United States skis on her way to win the gold medal in the Women's slalom sitting skiing race at the Turin 2006 Paralympic Winter Games, in Sestriere, Sunday, March 19, 2006. (AP Photo/Claudio Scaccini)
Paralympics: Utah skiers, snowboarders hit slopes in Russia
Paralympic Winter Games » Just like earlier Sochi Games, local athletes well represented in new sports.
First Published Mar 05 2014 05:11 pm • Last Updated Mar 07 2014 04:16 pm

The addition of new sports significantly raised Utah’s profile in the recent Olympics, and the same is true of the Paralympic Winter Games.

Snowboardcross for athletes with lower limb impairment will make its debut in Sochi’s 2014 Games, and five contestants with Utah ties are entered in the event at Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. They’ll join three medal-winning skiers from Park City.

At a glance

Paralympic Games

O Friday-March 16

Sochi, Russia

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The Paralympics begin with the Opening Ceremony on Friday and continue through March 16, with competition in Alpine skiing, snowboarding, biathlon, cross-country skiing, sled hockey and wheelchair curling.

The snowboardcross event is March 14. Danelle Umstead, who skis in the visually impaired class with her husband, Rob, as her guide, and Stephani Victor will compete in five events, spread from Saturday through March 16.

The eight Utahns in the Games:

• Cristina Albert, snowboarding: Born in Romania and adopted at age 3, Albert grew up in Denver and now lives in Holladay. She became a competitive snowboarder only three years ago, but has ascended quickly in the sport.

Albert, 25, lost her left foot due to a staph infection at 12, resulting from surgery for a congenital clubfoot condition. She works as a veterinary technician.

• Tyler Burdick, snowboarding: With one week remaining in his third deployment with a Marine regiment, Burke was in an armored vehicle that was struck by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan, seriously injuring both of his feet in 2010.

Limb salvage, physical therapy and braces have enabled him to walk again. Burdick, a 1999 Cyprus High School graduate who lives in Salt Lake City, previously was an avid snowboarder. He moved into adaptive snowboarding via the National Ability Center in Park City and posted five top-10 finishes in his first World Cup season.

• Keith Gabel, snowboarding: Gabel, a 2002 graduate of Ben Lomond High School in Ogden, is a strong medal contender. He’s tied for No. 3 in the world rankings.

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Gabel lost his left foot in an industrial accident in 2005 and soon returned to snowboarding, but learned about competitive opportunities only in 2010. He started training with the National Ability Center and finished third in his first international event.

• Megan Harmon, snowboarding: An Alabama native, Harmon recently moved to Salt Lake City to work for ATK as a quality engineer on rocket motor construction.

She has a prosthetic leg, after being injured in a motorcycle-auto accident while attending Alabama-Huntsville in 2009. Harmon returned to snowboarding six months later.

• Nicole Roundy, snowboarding: Roundy, 28, graduated from Viewmont High School and Salt Lake Community College and recently became the first above-the-knee amputee to compete in snowboarding. She lost her right leg as a result of bone cancer at age 8.

Roundy earned her first World Cup medal (bronze) in an event in Spain in February.

• Danelle and Rob Umstead, Alpine skiing: A winner of two bronze medals in the 2010 Paralympics, Danelle is a contender in all five events in the visually impaired class.

A degenerative condition limits her vision to about 5 feet in font of her. She skis behind her husband, who communicates via headset. The couple met in New Mexico and moved to Park City in 2008. As a former college skier and racing coach, Rob became her full-time guide after the move.

Danelle, 42, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis shortly after the 2010 Games, but has kept improving on the slopes. She’s the 2013-14 World Cup champion for speed events in her class.

• Stephani Victor, Alpine skiing: Victor, who competes in the sitting class, also will ski in downhill, super-G, giant slalom, slalom and super combined events.

Victor, 44, is a longtime Park City resident. With five Paralympic medals, including a gold and two silvers in 2010, and five overall World Cup titles, she’s among the most recognized adaptive skiers in the sport’s history.

Victor lost both legs when an out-of-control vehicle struck her in a driveway in 1995. She has become a renowned motivational speaker and will compete in her fourth Paralympics.

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