Paralympic athlete and Park City resident Chris Waddell is a finalist for the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Hall of Fame—and members of the public can help make him an inductee.
Chris Waddell has won 12 Paralympic medals for winter games and one for summer games. After retiring as a professional athlete, in 2009 Waddell became the first paraplegic to summit Mt. Kilimanjaro on a hand cycle. Now, he’s one of nine Paralympic athlete finalists for the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Hall of Fame. Waddell says he’s in good company, along with cyclist, alpine skier and Park City resident Muffy Davis; alpine skier Greg Mannino; and Trischa Zorn, the most decorated Paralympic medalist of all time.
“I looked at the list and I kind of thought, well, I'd love this to be a shoo-in," Waddell said. "But I looked at the list and went, wow, this is a really impressive group of people here.”
The 2019 Hall of Fame class will be the first inducted since 2012, and Waddell says he’s honored to be included. Waddell says one of his biggest heroes is Diana Golden, a Paralympic skier. He saw her race the year before the skiing accident that paralyzed him from the waist down. Waddell says he and Golden weren’t on the ski team at the same time—she retired just before Waddell started.
“I felt like I wanted to follow in her footsteps, and in 2005 she was inducted into the Hall of Fame in Chicago--they did it in Chicago that year," Waddell said. "I had had some pretty major eight hours of back surgery that summer, so it was my first tri, but I didn't want to miss it. I flew to Chicago to be there to watch her get inducted, and it's an interesting thing. We always know who inspires us, but we don't necessarily know who we inspire, and I'm just kind of hoping to follow in her footsteps in a lot of ways.”
Waddell keeps busy with his organization One Revolution as well as being a commentator on NBC for the Paralympic Games. He’s also working on a TV show where a person with a disability experiences an adventure with strangers on the street. And, at his late mother’s request, he’s finishing a book about his Kilimanjaro climb.
"When I came back from Kilimanjaro, she said to me, 'well, you need to do a children's book about the climb,' and I wrote it soon thereafter," Waddell said. "But I didn't know how to draw and ended up learning how to draw, and so now I'm in the midst of trying to figure out how to do all the drawings for that, to hopefully get that out for the 10th anniversary."
Three Paralympians will be inducted into the Hall of Fame in November. The public can vote for Waddell, or any of the finalists, until Sept. 3 online at awards.teamusa.org.