LAKE PLACID – Paralympic sit-skier and wheelchair track athlete Chris Waddell, who climbed the 19,340-foot Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania using a specially designed hand cycle, will be in Lake Placid for a showing of an award-winning documentary about him, “One Revolution.”
The movie, which tells the story of Waddell’s ascent, will play at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts at 7 p.m. Tuesday, free and open to the public. Waddell will introduce the movie and take questions from the audience afterward. He is also scheduled to talk to students at local schools Monday and Tuesday.
Waddell, who grew up in western Massachusetts, was a promising skier for Middlebury College in Vermont when he broke his back in a skiing accident in 1988. The accident left him paralyzed from the waist down.
Determined to get back into the sport, he returned on a monoski about a year later. Two years after that, he was named to the U.S. Disabled Ski Team.
Waddell went on to become the most decorated male skier in Paralympic history, winning 12 medals over four games, starting in 1992 and ending 10 years later. He spent a total of 11 years on the U.S. Disabled Ski Team. He is one of a select few who has medaled in both summer and winter games. In 2010, he was inducted into both the Paralympic Hall of Fame and the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame.
In September 2009, he became the first paraplegic to climb Mount Kilamanjaro.
“The reason why I decided on Kilamanjaro was I thought, if I could get to the top of the tallest place, I could find that people would have to see me to see beyond the wheelchair, to see me as an individual, and also hopefully to see 1.1 billion people out there with physical disabilities in a little bit different light, to see them for the first time again,” Waddell said. “And Kilamanjaro was a logical choice because it’s not a super-technical climb. You generally don’t need ropes and those kinds of things. It’s what you call a walkable mountain. So for me walking up it, it seemed like it was more within the realm of possibility than Everest or something like that.”
The movie about his climb was directed by Amanda Stoddard and has won multiple awards, including best documentary at both the Memphis International Music and Film Festival and the Geneva Film Festival.
The documentary is one of several that Waddell has appeared in. He also was featured in “To Dream Again,” which showed his efforts to learn to ski a year after his accident. He also appeared in Warren Miller’s 1994 movie “Vertical Reality.”
“Warren was a huge supporter of disabled skiing, and he believed in disabled skiing,” Waddell said. “He featured athletes in his films, and after (the Paralympics in) Lillehammer in ’94, he wanted to showcase a bunch of us.”
Now 45 and living in Park City, Utah, Waddell is a motivational speaker and the focal point of the One Revolution foundation. When he talks to students Monday and Tuesday, he will be working off a presentation that is called “Nametags.”
“It looks at the labels that we put on ourselves and others, which are often our limitations,” Waddell said. “How often do we say, ‘I can’t do this because I am … I’m too old. I’m too poor. I’m too, not smart enough, whatever it is. We’re pretty good at those kinds of things. And kids are so labeled, so it’s a matter of resilience. Our motto is, ‘It’s not what happens to you. It’s what you do with what happens.’ Things are going to go wrong, and it’s a matter of how you react to the things that have gone wrong.”
Waddell will also talk to the students about trying to be themselves. Often, he said, children try hard to fit in and forget who they are in the process.
“So those are the two main parts of it, are the resilience and then also developing that thing that’s unique in you and that will hopefully make you happy,” Waddell said.