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PARK CITY -- Paralympic athlete Chris Waddell is about to face his biggest challenge yet: summiting Mount Kilimanjaro, with no help, in a wheelchair. He'd be the first to do it.
The mountain this Park City resident, and found out why he's talking on the mountain plans to climb is over 19,000 feet high. It's considered the tallest free-standing mountain in the world and the highest mountain on the African continent.
Waddell is planning to climb in his four-wheeled chair, hoping to shine a spotlight on disabled community"We want to change social perceptions," he says. "I didn't ask to join this group, but sometimes what we're supposed to do finds us." Twenty years ago, Waddell broke his back and became a paraplegic. Since then, he's become the most decorated male skier in Paralympic history. Waddell competed on the U.S. Disabled Ski Team for over a decade and has 12 medals, including one from the Salt Lake City games.
He doesn't compete on the slopes anymore, but he's not slowing down.
"This is giving me a platform to make a much bigger statement about living life to the fullest," Wadell says.
He has been to Africa twice to scope out the mountain, meeting with other disabled people.
"Sometimes when you see someone with a disability in a developing country, you doubt that they have a life or much possibility out there," Waddell says.He wants to change that stigma, and while he's in Africa he'll be donating wheelchairs. A film crew is going with him to shoot a documentary, along with a guide and two friends. And Waddell says he's as prepared as he's going to get. "I'm ready. I've done the work. There's nothing I can do now to change my preparations," Waddell says. There are going to be places we'll improvise."
Waddell says they'll take five days getting to the top--that includes one days rest--then two days getting down. He's not doing this just to inspire those with disabilities, but everyone.
"I want to make a statement that: Hey, you can do whatever you want to do," Waddell says.
He has promised that when he gets back in town, he'll sit down with us again and let us know how he did and show us pictures and video from the top.