When her family tried to get her to wear a vest reading “blind skier”, she refused and instead opted for a specially printed one that said “partially sighted, totally cute”. This perfectly depicts the unrelenting character of the internationally medaled skier, Staci Mannella.
Staci Mannella was born with a rare congenital condition, known as achromatopsia, which causes poor visual acuity and sensitivity to light. This condition caused doctors to label her as “disabled”, but even at a young age, Staci proved herself to be anything but that. At the age of four, Staci began skiing with her family. Although she faced her own share of difficulties, she improved quickly and had no trouble keeping up with the rest of her family.
Staci was selected for the U.S. development team in 2011 and 2012, and quickly moved her way up to the A team after ranking sixth in the world in the slalom. She has shown time and time again her condition does not weaken her in any way.
Her career, thus far, has included four national championship titles, a World Cup gold medal and representing the United States in the 2014 Sochi Paralympic Games. On top of all this, she is a full-time student at Dartmouth College.
Staci and her current guide, Sadie Debaun, have been skiing together since December of 2015. Over this short period of time, they’ve managed to secure four World Cup gold medals, three World Cup silver medals and a bronze medal at the 2017 World Championships.
As many professional athletes can tell you, the risk for injury and set backs are high when competing at such a high level. 100 days before the Paralympics were scheduled to start, Staci tore her medial collateral ligament. Determined not to let anything get in the way of doing what she loves, Staci continued to prepare for the Paralympics and competed in PyeongChang where the games were being held. Despite the rocky start, Staci insisted on competing and going for the gold.
Author: Kristina Ivanova