HELENA — Dani Aravich was born without her left hand and forearm, but that’s never slowed her down. She ran track and field as well as cross country at Butler University. Now, she’s gearing up for her second Paralympics in just six months.
Aravich made her Paralympic debut in Tokyo for the 2021 summer Paralympic Games for track and field. Now, she will be making her Nordic skiing debut in Beijing.
MTN Sports: First of all, congratulations on the Paralympic Nordic skiing team. But I do know that you didn't actually know about the Paralympics until a little bit later in life. So could you fill everyone in on how you found out about it?
Dani Aravich: “Yes. So I was working a corporate nine to five career post collegiately and I wasn't really feeling fulfilled in my job. I had heard about the Paralympics very briefly. A family friend had talked to me a little bit about it. I started doing some research and then dived into it about three years ago. And now I'm going to my second Paralympics.”
MTN Sports: You competed in track and field in the Summer Paralympics, and I know you ran at Butler University, but how did you find Nordic skiing?
Aravich: “I didn't find it. I was training for Paralympic track and a US developmental team coach for the Nordic team reached out to me because the sport is pretty small, especially niche when it comes to para and then Nordic skiing. So she reached out to me and offered for me to try out to camp. I tried out a camp in December of 2019. And from there on out, I guess I became a two sport athlete.”
MTN Sports: So you're living in Bozeman, right? So where do you train? Was it in Canada?
Aravich: “So we train full time in Bozeman. I think last time I chatted with you, we were heading to Canada. We do a bunch of international trips during the year. And luckily even with COVID. This year, we were able to go up to Canmore for training camp and do some racing. I just got back from Norway. So I was over there doing some racing. And now in just about three weeks, we'll head over to China but our team for the winter is based out of Bozeman.”
MTN Sports: The main reason I wanted to talk to you today is because I know you're really passionate about being a Paralympian and that you want people to understand the difference between the Paralympics and the Olympics. So could you go into more detail about that?
Aravich: “Definitely. I think that I definitely before I knew much about the Paralympics three years ago I probably made some quick judgments and didn't really understand what was going on either. But basically, the Paralympics is separate from the Olympics. It's different than the Special Olympics and the Paralympics is a competition designed for people with a variety of physical disabilities. The Paralympics do take place at the same venues, and we stay in the same villages, and there's often the same sports. But they are so different than the Olympics. They happen two weeks after the Olympics conclude. So the Olympics are finishing mid February and we'll start our competitions March 4 in Beijing. Luckily now in the US, the community and our government and our sponsors are doing a really great job of trying to promote the Paralympics and now Paralympians receive equal metal money if you are to medal at the games and there's a lot more sponsorship opportunities for Paralympians, but we are still different than Olympians, no lesser, just different.”
MTN Sports: Awesome. So you mentioned that you stayed in the same villages as the Olympians, so before you go, since it was the biggest story of the Olympics and the Paralympics, can you tell me how the cardboard beds were?
Aravich: “I feel like people were really talking down on them. I'd say the worst part is that they were twin beds and you know, at home I sleep in a queen but cardboard beds were pretty comfortable and you were able to actually change some things. Like the way the boxes were stacked to change the level of firmness, but they weren't terrible. I have seen photos of the Beijing beds. They're not cardboard, they look like they're a little bit bigger too. And the rooms look a little bit bigger. So that will be exciting, but the cardboard beds. I slept fine. Maybe I was just exhausted.”
MTN Sports: All right, Dani. Well, thanks so much. I hope your bed is bigger and good luck in the Paralympics.