Experiencing the Paralympic Games Through the Eyes of a Former Competitor

By: Megan Roche

 

Randolph’s own Staci Mannella remembers the Sochi 2014 and PyeongChang 2018 games with pride. Mannella competed in both winter games as a member of the Paralympic Alpine Skiing team. 

 

When she was born in 1996, Mannella was diagnosed with achromatopsia. The condition limits her visual acuity to three feet and causes extreme sensitivity to light. Being a member of a ski loving family, Mannella quickly was brought up on the slopes. At the age of four, she was skiing downhill by holding onto a bamboo pole between two sighted skiers. By the time she reached the fifth grade, Mannella was competing for the Adaptive Sports Foundation race team at Windham Mountain.

 

“When I first started, my parents were just grateful for the fact that I could ski so we could ski together as a family. I ended up really exceeding their expectations. I grew up skiing every weekend and then as a teenager, I ended up outskiing the instructors in the Windham Mountain program. I was told that I should get involved in racing,” Mannella said. 

 

Inspired after a meeting with members of the US Paralympic Alpine Skiing team in 2008, Mannella began working toward her goal of representing the USA at the Paralympic Games.  It all started when she was named to the developmental roster for Team USA three years after that inspirational meeting.

 

In 2014, Mannella recalls her selection to the Team USA roster heading to Sochi for the Paralympic Games. 

 

“I was out skiing in Winter Park, Colorado and training. We had a feeling that we were going to make the team but you never know until its official. They named the team while we were out training. I remember being very excited. We all went out and bought a steak dinner together and celebrated,” Mannella said. 

 

In the 2014 Paralympic Games, Mannella placed just off the podium in sixth in both the giant slalom and slalom. 

 

One of her greatest memories from her competitive skiing career came at the 2017 World Para Alpine Skiing Championships with a bronze medal finish in the super combined race. The competition in Italy was stiff and Mannella was not anticipating a podium finish. However, she highlights the importance of her favorite memories as moments when there were no spectators. 

 

“A lot of my favorite memories and moments come from the times when people weren’t watching. The medals are great but I also had a lot of opportunities to explore different places all over the world with people who were and are still very important to me,” Mannella shares. 

 

In 2018, as she arrived in PyeongChang, South Korea, her outlook on the games had not changed. In 2014, Mannella was overwhelmed with gratitude as she competed and 2018 was no different. 

 

“The first time I competed at the games, they tell you that its going to feel larger than life and it’s so big. It’s definitely true. Everything they tell you does not prepare you to compete on a stage like that. When I was in Sochi, it was so intimidating. In 2018, it was the same thing. It’s not something that you become accustomed to. It’s still very exciting, but when you come in as a seasoned athlete you are looking at it from a different perspective,” Mannella shares. 

 

Her 2018 Paralympic Games results were still a top ten finish, placing ninth in the slalom, and tenth in the giant slalom and super-G. In fact, she wishes she was in Beijing competing in the 2022 Paralympic Games.

 

“I think we often focus on the larger events like the Olympics and World Championships. I’ve been skiing for Team USA since I was 15 until I was 22. Those are malleable years and I owe a lot of who I am now because of how I’ve been impacted by my time as an athlete. If I could choose to be skiing right now, I would but I also recognize that right now I need to focus on school and my career beyond skiing so that’s been the sacrifice I’ve made,” Mannella says. 

 

A 2014 graduate of Morris County School of Technology and a 2019 graduate of Dartmouth College, Mannella is now studying for her Masters at the School of Kinesiology at the University of British Columbia. 

 

To learn more about Mannella, visit www.stacimannella.com

 

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