June 23, 2012
Chris Waddell always thought that the lessons he learned in sports would provide the foundation for later success. As a ski racer at Middlebury College in 1988, he had no idea how profoundly one moment could change and paradoxically enhance that conviction. On December 20th his ski popped off in the middle of a turn. He fell, broke two vertebrae, and damaged the spinal cord. Paralyzed from the waist down he learned and achieved more than he could have imagined.
He returned to college just two months after the accident, started monoskiing in less than a year and was named to the US Disabled Ski Team a little more than two years after that paradoxical moment. With 12 Paralympic medals, he became the most decorated male monoskier in history. Also a track athlete, he’s one of a handful to have won World Championships in both the winter and the summer. He competed in four Winter Paralympics winning 12 medals and three Summer Paralympics winning a silver medal in the 200 meters in Sydney. In World Championship competition, Waddell won 9 total medals: four gold, one silver, one bronze; six in the winter and three in the summer.
Waddell was inducted into the US Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame and the Paralympics Hall of Fame. The Dalai Lama honored him as an “Unsung Hero of Compassion”. People Magazine named him one of the “Fifty Most Beautiful People in the World”. Skiing Magazine placed him amongst the “25 Greatest Skiers in North America”. Middlebury College presented him with a Doctorate in Humane Letters.
In September of 2009 Waddell became the first nearly unassisted paraplegic to summit Mt. Kilimanjaro. The film documenting the climb has won awards throughout the world. He has appeared on Dateline, Oprah and 20/20. He is the founder of the One Revolution Foundation and speaks throughout the country sharing his universal message, “It’s not what happens to you. It’s what you do with what happens to you.”