National Ability Center volunteer competes in summer and ideally winter Paralympics

Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. Equestrian is one of the many sports offered by the National Ability Center for the Paralympics and Special Olympics.
Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. Equestrian is one of the many sports offered by the National Ability Center for the Paralympics and Special Olympics. Photo: International Equestrian Federation (FEI)

TOKYO, Japan. — Danielle “Dani” Aravich, a volunteer for Park City’s National Ability Center (NAC) finished fifth in her Tokyo 2020 preliminary heat in track and field athletics in the women’s 400 meters as a classification T47 athlete. Fifth wasn’t one of the top three spots that qualified to continue in the meet.

It’s hard to find people in Park City who haven’t volunteered in the past, volunteer in the present, or intend to volunteer in the future for the NAC. Many athletes with disabilities have started training and competing at the NAC and ended up in the Paralympics or Special Olympics.

Born in Boise, Idaho without her left forearm, in the 25-year-old’s race on Friday, she ran across the line at 1:03:76 clocking in after Australia and before Romania.

The NAC is a par four away from the US Ski and Snowboard Center of Excellence (COE) in Park City which is sponsored by USANA, Skiing is Dani’s focus now that she’s checked one dream off her list in Tokyo with a goal of competing in para nordic skiing in the 2022 Beijing Winter Paralympic Games. The American already holds titles in national competitions in para cross-country skiing.

She said to the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) that it can be difficult balancing training for both, particularly with the two Games taking place six months apart due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “It’s two completely different systems. If you think about the Nordic [Para cross-country skiing], it’s long-distance, anaerobic sustainability. For the sprinting, it’s just the fast-twitch. So bringing the two together simultaneously is not necessarily beneficial to one another despite what people think when they first hear the two. Trying to qualify not only for my first Paralympic Games but for a Summer and a Winter with only six months apart, originally thinking we had 18 months apart, is quite a feat. But I would never want to look back 10 years from now and be like, ‘Oh, well, I made the Winter Games in 2022. Amazing, but I might have been able to make the Summer too. Why didn’t I go for it?’”

Cheer on and assist Dani and other athletes with disabilities all winter while they ski the cross country trails of Park City, alpine ski at Deer Valley Resort, snowboard and boardercross at the NAC Mountain Center at Park City Mountain. Volunteer to help the bobsledders who may even be Wounded Warriors at the Utah Olympic Park. The NAC partners with all these venues and more to provide opportunities for whoever comes into their organization. National cancer centers like MD Anderson team up with the NAC to bring groups of patients to Park City to get to experience the fun-factor the technically trained staff supply.

People come from all over the country to participate for a week and stay at the accessible lodge and play at the sprawling NAC campus with indoor rock climbing wall, outdoor 25 ft. high ropes course, and equestrian barn. Able-bodied local and national corporate retreats and meetings are also booked at the NAC spaces.

In the summer, water skiing at Jordanelle Reservoir, white water rafting in Southern Utah and creating a new high-performance NAC mountain bike team for athletes with disabilities before it’s even in the Paralympic Games are all available. Last but certainly not least is the tireless devotion the NAC pays to traveling the world to equip first, second, and third world nations with basic wheelchair and mobility gear to improve the quality of life for families. Donate directly right here.

Regarding the pandemic Paralympic postponement, Erik Leirfallom, NAC High Performance Team Alpine Skiing Coach said, “A big challenge that I can see it posing is the change in sport and training cycle, which could affect the rhythm of preparation for qualifying or even meeting classification criteria. Any athlete working to become “elite” will inherently find a pace or structure to their preparation which has a goal in mind or crossroads which requires them to make an important life decision in a given length of time; but, once they become elite athletes, their programing will also allow them to overcome changes which are outside of their control and reset to the new pace pretty easily.”

Meeche White, co-founder of the NAC, said about the challenge of holding the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, “Putting on the Paralympic Games is a feat in and of itself. Add the challenge of keeping everyone healthy during a pandemic and it clearly becomes a logistical puzzle. But, Paralympic athletes, coaches and officials are a community of folks who know what it means to adapt – so in spite of the obstacles presented this year in Tokyo, this is sure to be a Paralympic Games for the books!”

The 400, in which Avarich contested the first round, South Africa won gold, Venezuela the silver and the bronze was earned by the athlete representing the Russian Paralympic Committee (RPC).

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