Newspaper article The Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Australia)

Hi-Tech Race Is on at the Paralympics; for Better or Worse, Technology Plays a Big Part for Athletes at These Games

Newspaper article The Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Australia)

Hi-Tech Race Is on at the Paralympics; for Better or Worse, Technology Plays a Big Part for Athletes at These Games

Article excerpt

TECHNOLOGY has never played such a crucial role in the Olympics. Ask Team GB's rivals in the velodrome, where defeated French coaches went so far as to suggest Britain's focus on the engineering involved a supply of secret wheels. But it is at the Paralympics that technology can truly give flight to sporting dreams.

Oscar Pistorius's running blades, back on the track next week after their historic debut at the Olympics, are the most famous among a gallery of designs and devices helping disabled athletes to go faster, higher and stronger.

Innovation also brings with it controversy however and claims from some countries that the price of devices intended to put athletes on a level playing field can lift them far above it. Cambodia, home to the highest concentration of amputees, but not a lot of cash, is sending one athlete to London.

Thin Sen Hong, a sprinter, has a relatively basic running blade paid for by donations from friends, leading her coach to tell the AFP news agency this week that a widening technology gap separated his runner from those with prosthetics aworth tens of thousands of dollarsa.

Whatever the debate on the influence of technology in any sport the Paralympics are, more than ever, a showcase for more than superhuman strength and spirit.

In 1948 at the Games hosted for patients with spinal injuries at Stoke Mandeville hospital in Buckinghamshire a the forerunner of the modern Paralympics a the wheelchairs weighed ten times as much as today's models. It's a similar story in other sports, too.

More than 80 layers of carbon fibre make up the blades now used by almost all amputee runners at the Paralympics. Oscar Pistoriushas powered to four Paralympic golds in Beijing and Athens. The South African wears Flex-Foot Cheetah prosthetics invented by US amputee Van Phillips and now produced by the Icelandic firm, Ossur.

The blade-style leg was the first to store energy like a spring, re-using it at the crucial moment the leg pushes off from the ground. …

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