The only thing that champion skier Chris Waddell does in less time than a slalom run is primp. Ask him how he accentuates his dazzling hazel eyes and he replies, "I keep them open."
Still, Waddell has learned to take nothing for granted. The 6-foot, Massachusetts-born son of a schoolteacher and a social worker was 20 when a 1988 skiing accident paralyzed him from the waist down. In less than a year he was back on the slopes in a specially built frame. During the last three Paralympic competitions, he has won five gold and four silver medals.
"It surprises people when I tell them that the quality of my life really hasn't diminished," says Waddell, who travels constantly between meets and modeling assignments for department stores and catalogs such as Eddie Bauer's. "I've competed at a higher level and wasn't able to say that I was the best at anything prior to my injury, and now I can. So in a sense, it's a blessing."
Waddell's natural good looks are another. A bit of Infusium 23 spray to keep his thick, wavy hair out of his eyes is his only daily requirement. He once had to shave his chest hair for a magazine shoot, but "I have about six of them, so it didn't take that long," he says. Four times a year he pays $20—including tip—for a haircut ("I don't go to Cristophe") and leaves the rest to Mother Nature.
She's responding like all the others. "He definitely has a strong effect on women," says girlfriend Lara Rosenbaum, 24, a member of the U.S. ski team. "He's electric."