The Adrenalist

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The Reach of Human Potential



On April 18, New York City’s Times Square played host to the U.S. Olympic Committee’s “Road to London — 100 Days Out  Event” where Samsung sponsored the U.S. Olympic Genome Project.

The Genome project is a first-of-its-kind interactive social media application that gives Team USA fans the opportunity to take part in the journey to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games by connecting with athletes, taking quizzes to test their sports knowledge, and earning tokens that can be redeemed for  Samsung mobile products and even a chance to win a trip to The Games.

We got the chance to speak with Chris Waddell, who was paralyzed in a skiing accident in college and went on to become the most decorated male skier in Paralympic history — medaling in both the winter Olympics and in the summer Olympics for wheelchair racing. His triumphs earned him a spot not only in the Paralympic Hall of Fame, but the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame in 2010.

He was also the first paraplegic to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro using a hand cycle in 2009.


Chris is a big supporter of the Genome project and the opportunity it gives fans to get to know the athletes on a more intimate level and develop a vested interest in them before The Games begin.

“Television is tough,” he said. ”I remember winning my first gold medal and when I was listening to the National Anthem in my honor, I felt like I was experiencing what was reserved for people watching on television. This breaks down that barrier and allows fans to see what happens before the athletes arrive on the grand stage.”

Here’s what else the Paralympic Hall of Famer (and one of People‘s 50 Most Beautiful People In The World) had to say:

The Adrenalist: What drove you to get back on the slopes and into wheelchair racing after your accident?

Chris Waddell: Skiing was my greatest teacher. It was where I experienced my highest highs and my lowest lows, and I felt like it still owed me something. Skiing was my vehicle to realizing who I was and my potential.

That said, we often learn things from other people as well. The year before my accident, I was at a ski race and a one-legged skier, Diana Golden, showed up. She beat a whole bunch of people, but she was the most amazing athlete because, while so many of us have our excuses in hand before we even start, she was just like “I’m gonna fall down, and I’m gonna get back up and you better watch, because I’m comin’.” I think she touched so many people that day, and I gained a hero and a different view of what sport meant. Before sport was entertaining and educational and about trying to win, but now I saw it indicated humans’ amazing ability to adapt. When I actually had my accident, I thought ‘Wow, I have much more to contribute now.’ There are 1.1 billion people with physical disabilities and Paralympics are an amazing way to indicate their potential. Possibilities are what you make of them. Diana crystalized that for me and I wanted to try to follow in her footsteps.

TA: Why did you decide to embark on the Kilimanjaro climb?

CW: The idea of climbing Kilimanjaro just popped into my head one day while I was out training. As a Paralympic athlete I was frustrated that the sport didn’t have much penetration into society and I realized that by climbing Kilimanjaro, I could give able-bodied people a context through which to understand it.  People can relate to the idea of ‘Man vs. Mountain’ – it’s a great metaphor for sport. We did a documentary film on the climb that I think highlighted the universal struggles of those who are disabled and allowed people to draw a conclusion on their own while watching.


TA: What do you feel has been the greatest honor bestowed upon you in your career?

CW: Well, what helped my career the most was being named one of People’s Top 50 Most Beautiful People In The World. I don’t know how much of it I earned — I mean, I’m glad my parents liked each other! One of the coolest things I’ve been able to do in sports was throw out the first pitch at Fenway Park ( I’m from Massachusetts). But I think my greatest honor was reaching the top of Kilimanjaro, not necessarily because it was representative of me and and who I am, but instead because it proved the reach and potential we, as humans, all truly have.

Now that Chris is retired from racing, he is focusing on the efforts of his foundation, One Revolution, to change the way that the world sees people with disabilities.

Don’t forget to connect with Chris and other members of Team USA through Samsung’s U.S. Olympic Genome Project.

Editor’s Note: In full disclosure, Samsung is a client of Weber Shandwick.

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