Paraplegic athlete to speak to Iron Mountain students


Staff Writer

IRON MOUNTAIN – One moment can change your life. And this is something that motivational speaker Chris Waddell will talk about to students at Iron Mountain High School on Friday.

The public is also invited to attend the presentation at 9 a.m. Friday in the IMHS gym.

Supt. Tom Jayne said that the visit by Waddell to IMHS is made possible through the efforts of Stephanie and Dave Brule II. The Brules, who know Waddell, first proposed the idea to the administration and went ahead and arranged for the visit.

Waddell was a ski racer at Middlebury College in 1988 when his ski popped off in the middle of a turn. He fell and broke two vertebrae and damaged his spinal cord.

The result of the accident was that he was paralyzed from the waist down.

That one moment – on Dec. 20, 1988 – changed the course of his life. Waddell returned to college just two months after the accident, started monoskiing less than a year, and was named to the U.S. Disabled Ski Team a little more than two years after that life changing moment.

Since that time, he has won 12 paralympic medals and has become the most decorated male monoskier in history.

In addition to skiing, he had also been a track athlete. He is one of a handful of competitors to have won World Championships in both the winter and the summer events. Waddell competed in four Winter Paralympics winning 12 medals and three Summer Paralympics winning a silver medal in the 200 meters in Sydney – bringing his total medal count to 13.

Waddell was inducted into the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame and the Paralympics Hall of Fame. The Dalai Lama honored him as an Unsung Hero of Compassion.

With still more to achieve in his life, Waddell retired from paralympic competition and decided to take on another challenge.

Months of training and preparation took him to Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa in September 2009. Waddell became the first paraplegic to summit the mountain under his own power. His team carried him for about 100 feet of the 19,340 foot mountain.

When Waddell became the first person to summit Kilimanjaro, he used a handcycle. His trek is documented in the 2010 film, “One Revolution.”

In talking with students, Waddell says that after his accident he refused to focus on what he could not longer do. And in an interview with the television news show, “20/20,” he said that the accident was the best thing that had ever happened to him.

“I felt like a transformed person. I felt, in a lot of ways, like the person that I’d always thought I was, like the best form of myself,” he said.

Waddell is also the founder of the One Revolution Foundation and through an educational program developed by the foundation called Nametags, he speaks throughout the country.

During his talks, he shares his universal message – “It’s not what happens to you. It’s what you do with what happens to you.”

Waddell currently lives in Park City, Utah and travels year-round making presentations for school programs, speaking to corporate groups and screening the documentary.

He is also working on a book to chronicle his journey while also planning his newest adventure – a cross country bike tour to highlight the foundation.

Linda Lobeck’s e-mail address is