This Summer Has Been Anything But Quiet For Dani Aravich
by Alex Abrams
Dani Aravich hasn’t had much time to relax or get bored this summer.
It has been a whirlwind offseason for the two-time Paralympian, from riding a bike almost 500 miles across Florida to running a 28-kilometer race near Salt Lake City. She also served as a guest reporter at the 2023 World Para Athletics Championships in July in Paris.
Despite her hectic schedule, Aravich has continued to train nearly every day this summer for the upcoming Para Nordic skiing season. She trains up to 25 hours per week in addition to working a full-time job and taking a graduate certificate course on disability policy through the University of Michigan.
And that’s not all.
“I actually just bought a condo, so I have to move in this weekend,” she said earlier this summer, laughing.
Aravich, a native of Boise, Idaho, ran cross country at Butler University and competed as a sprinter at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020. But she decided to give up track and field to focus on improving as a Nordic skier.
Aravich earned a pair of top-10 finishes in cross-country skiing at the 2022 Beijing Winter Paralympics, and she placed in the top 15 in two biathlon races.
While she’s no longer a two-sport athlete, Aravich is still highly competitive and extremely busy. She admitted she would sign up to compete in anything she could in the offseason if not for Nick Michaud, her U.S. Paralympics Nordic Skiing coach.
Michaud helps reign her in and plan her workouts this offseason, even during those weeks when she’s not home in Bozeman, Montana.
“But I’ve actually been in Bozeman probably more than I have any other summer of Nordic training,” said Aravich, who turned 27 on May 8. “And so my training has been really consistent so far, but it’s just a balancing act.
“I work full-time now (for the athlete marketing platform Parity), so every time I’m not a practice, I’m on my computer working.”
Aravich typically takes off the month of April to regroup after the Para Nordic skiing season ends. She instead used this past April to train for a nearly week-long bike ride along the Florida coast during the first week of May.
Aravich was invited to take part in a six-day, 700-mile bike ride with Team ONE MILE, a charitable organization that helps military veterans transition to civilian life.
The ride from Key West to Jacksonville, Florida, followed the path that Hurricane Ian took when it hit the state last September. The ride was meant to bring awareness to those Florida communities still recovering from the hurricane.
“Coming from the Mountain West and not really understanding much about hurricane disaster, it was really eye-opening and very humbling to see all the destruction that the hurricane caused,” Aravich said.
Aravich, who was born without her left hand and forearm, used a prosthetic arm to help her ride 477 miles through Florida. She didn’t get into any bike accidents along the way, but she said she felt some discomfort in her back from the prosthetic arm.
“So even though I’m a pro athlete in my sport, I felt like the newbie there because I’m just not as experienced on the bike,” Aravich said. “But it gave me a great appreciation for biking.”
Two months later, Aravich was traveling again, this time to Paris.
Because of her background in Para track and field, as well as the relationships she has with many of top American runners, she was asked to report from the World Para Athletics Championships for the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee.
“I think the athletes really responded well to being interviewed by me. Sometimes when you’ve just finished a race and then you’re pushed to the media portion of it, it can be kind of overwhelming,” said Aravich, who competed in the 400-meter dash at the Tokyo Paralympics.
“So I think the fact that a lot of them who I knew from the Tokyo Games saw me, they were able to feel a little more comfortable and open up a little bit after their races.”
Aravich said she thought she might feel jealous watching her former Team USA teammates competing in Paris. But she joked that feeling quickly went away, and she was good with just reporting from the sidelines.
“I was expecting maybe to feel some envy just because I’m competitive and seeing people I trained with for Tokyo out there,” Aravich said. “But instead I just felt almost like a mama bear being proud of her little children racing their hearts out. And it was really special to get to hug each of them after their race.”
Aravich has since returned to Bozeman, where she trains 6-7 days a week. She roller skis several times a week, and she has been working on improving her shooting for the biathlon.
“Honestly, what I’ve been focusing on a lot is my shooting because I think I’ve had moments in races where there’s like great potential for me to possibly hop on a (medal) podium and then my shooting kind of lets me down,” Aravich said. “So shooting has been a major focus.”
It’s just one more thing for her to do this summer.
Alex Abrams has written about Olympic sports for more than 15 years, including as a reporter for major newspapers in Florida, Arkansas and Oklahoma. He is a freelance contributor to USParaNordicSkiing.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.