Year Inducted: 2009
Chris Waddell was a promising Middlebury College athlete in 1988 when a skiing accident changed his life, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down. But his career as an athlete was only beginning. Waddell would go on to become the most decorated adaptive man in U.S. Ski Team history with 12 medals over four Paralympic Winter Games. Today, he remains one of the sport's most noted motivational speakers and always on the quest for new challenges.
Always determined and motivated, Waddell found his way back on snow with a monoski a year after his accident and was soon named to the U.S. Adaptive Ski Team. He broke through internationally with a pair of silver medals at the 1992 Paralympics. And at Lillehammer in 1994, he dominated winning all four gold. His competitive career closed after the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City where he added three more medals.
He also became one of only a few athletes to crossover to summer sports at the top level, competing in three Paralympic Summer Games with silver in the 200-meter wheelchair race in Sydney.
Waddell's real calling card has been his desire and ability to promote his sport. He partnered with teammate Sarah Will in the mid-90s to create an introductory monoski program in Vail to introduce newcomers to the sport. His pioneering efforts made a huge impact in changing the face of monoskiing.
He has used his charisma to advocate for adaptive sports his entire career. He has been featured in many national publications including Skiing, Ski, National Geographic Explorer, Outside and People Magazine, which named him one of the "50 Most Beautiful People in the World." He has been seen on national TV, including an appearance on Oprah. One of the most notable figures in Paralympics, in 2008 he was named as one of 11 Paralympian Ambassadors, serving as role models for youth.
Never one to shy away from challenges, in August, 2009 he will attempt to become the first paraplegic to climb Africa's Mount Kilimanjaro as part of his One-Revolution project.
Going into his final Winter Paralympics, he became an ambassador for the Salt Lake City Olympic Organizing Committee, prompting head Mitt Romney to remark: "One Paralympian stood out. He promoted the event from the beginning, making appearances anywhere we asked. He helped raise donations. He took days to shoot images for our Paralympic videos. Chris Waddell, a gold medal athlete from prior Paralympics, would not only compete in our Paralympics, he would help us carry to the public."