KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia — Two Utah athletes won Paralympic medals on Friday.
Ogden native and Ben Lomond High graduate Keith Gabel was part of a U.S. sweep in the first-ever Paralympic snowboard cross event. He won bronze behind teammates Evan Strong, who won gold, and Mike Shea, who earned silver.
“It is a true honor [to be a part of the sweep],” Gabel said. “I couldn’t be more proud of my teammates or myself. It’s been a long time coming. To be a part of a clean sweep, man what an honor, what an honor. It is a serendipitous moment, standing up there and hearing the roar. It’s a surreal moment for me.”
Gabel was competing in the debut of the sport at the Paralympics.
“It’s a tremendous honor to be a part of this,” Gabel told the Deseret News before the games. “It’s a huge honor to be able to motivate people and to know they gain drive from my experiences.”
Gabel fell in love with snowboarding in 2000, and it is that passion that helped him deal with losing his foot after an industrial accident in July of 2005. Whether he's competing, speaking to young people or working with veterans adapting to life as an amputee, he preaches that the right attitude can help you accomplish just about anything.
“Looking back, I just stayed positive most of the time,” he said. “I just kind of accepted my fate, if you will. Does it suck at times? Yes. And I strong enough to deal with it? Yes. Everyone has those moments, and I’m not going to let them bring me down.”
Park City’s Danelle Umstead, who is guided by her husband Rob Umstead, won bronze in the visually impaired super combined. The conditions on the Alpine course have been difficult for skiers, but she was happy to earn a podium on the second-to-last day of competition.
“It is nice to get our first medal of the week,” Umstead said. “I wish we had gone a little bit faster, but we did our best. We fought in the slalom where the conditions were a little intense, and we made it to the finish there. And to finish in third through the super combined was super nice.”
Danelle Umstead has an eye disease called retinitis pigmentosa, as well as, early onset macular degeneration. She loved skiing from the moment she was introduced to it in 2000, but she had trouble finding guides who could keep up with her. That's when her husband, Rob, whom she met skiing, decided to take on that responsbility in 2008. The couple competed in Vancouver, winning two bronze medals. They live in Park City and have one son, Brocton.
Before her first race in Sochi, Danelle Umstead tweeted a picture of herself with a photo of her son. She skis with Brocton's picture over her heart.
The U.S. now has 16 medals in the 2014 Paralympic Games, surpassing its 2010 haul of 13. Russia is leading the medal count with 64 and two days of competition to go.
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