News / Europe

Technology Key to London Paralympians

Technology Key to London Paralympiansi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
September 08, 2012 3:56 PM
The spotlight at the Paralympic Games in London has not been on the athletes alone but also on the remarkable technology that helps them compete. In London, Selah Hennessy went to find out how engineers, volunteering for a charity called Remap, are building Olympic technology right in their own back yard.
Technology Key to London Paralympians
Selah Hennessy
The spotlight at the Paralympic Games in London has not been on the athletes alone but also on the remarkable technology that helps them compete.  In London, engineers, volunteering for a charity called Remap, are developing Olympic technology right in their own backyard.

In the garage of his home just outside London, David Sheffield is working on the prototype for a wheelchair suitable for Paralympic athletes.  Working with him is former engineer Doug Watt.

They are among some 1,000 people who volunteer for the charity Remap, designing technology that helps disabled people.  They do it in their own garages, for free, and usually using their own materials. 

The wheelchair they are working on now is designed to fit shot put thrower Shaun Sewell.  It is also adjustable and will be used as a template for future athletes, as David Sheffield explains. 

"We were asked to make a chair that was totally adjustable in every way so that we can use it not just for Shaun but also for other athletes.  And then we can find the exact positions for the way they sit, the way they hold the pole, the way they lean back and so on.  And then once that is all set up we will then make them a chair just for them with those dimensions and those features," said Sheffield.

Now in his 30s, Sewell has been using a wheelchair since he lost the use of his legs in a motorcycle accident 13 years ago. 

He almost made it to the 2008 Beijing Paralympics but his plans were disrupted when he contracted life-threatening septicemia. He says the past years have been a challenge.

"The journey that I have had as a competitive athlete has not been easy at all," he said.  "Trying to find a coach, trying to find a gym that can help you in the way that you need help, because there are certain things that I am unable to actually do by myself.  If you want to get into throwing as a disabled thrower, you find a welder's yard.  And you and that welder come up with an idea for a frame, and it's quite bog standard."

That is a world away from the new wheelchair Sheffield and Watt are designing for him.  They have carefully taken all his measurements so the chair is the right fit for his body.  They have also spent time watching him throw, so they know how his body moves and where extra support is most needed.

Sewell says he is intent on making the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro four years from now.  The new chair, he says, will help him get there.

"I believe it's going to make a huge difference," he said. "I'm throwing really well with the frame I've got now which is not right for me, so having something that is right will only improve my distance."

Peter Parry, chairman of trustees at Remap, says its volunteers have built devices for three athletes competing in this year's Paralympics.

He says it is not like the other work the volunteers do - not least because there's a large book of rules about what technology is allowed.

"We can help them support themselves," he said.  "We can provide them with the pole - as you saw - to help them balance their body.  But what we cannot do is have things like springs or hydraulics, which would give them an unfair advantage.  Because then it becomes a battle of who can make the best device rather than who can be the best athlete."

Parry says with technology there can be the temptation to cheat - as with performance-enhancing drugs.  But luckily, he says, with wheelchairs, spotting any unfair advantage is easy.

"It is relatively easy to check," he said. "For instance, the pole that Shaun holds has got to be rigid.  It's not allowed to bend and give him any spring.  Similarly, the back of his seat has got to be rigid.  These are fairly objective tests, which you can put on.  Really where the problem is likely to come is in things like the running blades, where the amount of force on those is enormous and the use of composite laminates is both expensive and give the advantage by using different materials for a different person."

And, he adds, with technology advancing it could become a more difficult terrain to monitor.

You May Like

Malaysian PM Ends Vacation Over Floods

Najib Razak had been criticized for golfing in Hawaii with US president while country suffered More

Photogallery Fear Amid Remembrances for Tsunami Victims

Across continent, services and tributes acknowledge 220,000 victims of 2004 Indian Ocean disaster; region remains inadequately prepared, experts say More

Liberia Lawmaker Denies Election Manipulation

Alex Tyler said he’s being used as a scapegoat by people who are refusing to accept defeat in the December 20 special senatorial election More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Estimates Rising of Foreign Fighters in Iraq, Syriai
X
Jeff Seldin
December 24, 2014 11:38 PM
Foreign fighters are making more of a mark on the battles raging across Syria and Iraq than initially thought. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more.
Video

Video Estimates Rising of Foreign Fighters in Iraq, Syria

Foreign fighters are making more of a mark on the battles raging across Syria and Iraq than initially thought. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more.
Video

Video Russians Head Into Holiday Facing Economic Malaise

Russian preparations for the New Year holiday are clouded by economic recession and a tumbling currency, the ruble. Nonetheless, people in the Russian capital appear to be in a festive mood. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Mombasa in Holiday Tourism Slump Due to Security Fears

Kenya's usually popular beachside tourist destination of Mombasa is seeing a much slower holiday season this year due to fears of insecurity as the country has suffered from a string of terror attacks linked to Somali militants. Mohammed Yusuf reports for VOA on how businessmen and tourists feel about the situation.
Video

Video For Somalis, 2014 Marked by Political Instability Within Government

While Somalia has long been torn apart by warfare and violence, this year one of the country's biggest challenges has come from within the government, as political infighting curtails the country's progress, threatens security gains and disappoints the international community. VOA's Gabe Joselow report.
Video

Video US Political Shift Could Affect Iran Nuclear Talks

Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts to resolve Iran’s nuclear crisis are continuing into 2015 after Iran and six world powers failed to agree by a November deadline. U.S. domestic politics, however, could complicate efforts to reach a deal in the new year. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video NYSE: The Icon of Capitalism

From its humble beginnings in 1792 to its status as an economic bellweather for the world, the New York Stock Exchange is an integral part of the story of America. VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from Wall Street.
Video

Video Islamic State Emergence Transforms Syria and Iraq in 2014

The emergence of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria as a potent force in early 2014 changed the dynamics of the region. Their brutal methods - including executions and forced slavery - horrified the international community, drawing Western forces into the conflict. It also splintered the war in Syria, where more than 200,000 Syrians have died in the conflict. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell looks back at a deadly year in the region -- and what 2015 may hold.
Video

Video Massive Study Provides Best Look at Greenland Ice Loss Yet

The Greenland ice sheet is melting faster than predicted, according to a new study released in the Proceedings of the National Academic of Sciences that combines NASA satellite data and aerial missions. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the finding means coastal communities worldwide could be at greater risk, sooner, from the impact of rising seas.
Video

Video US Marines, Toys for Tots Bring Christmas Joy

Christmas is a time for giving in the United States, especially to young children who look forward to getting presents. But some families don't have money to buy gifts. For nearly 70 years, a U.S. Marines-sponsored program has donated toys and distributed them to underprivileged children during the holiday season. VOA's Deborah Block tells us about the annual Toys for Tots program.
Video

Video France Rocked by Attacks as Fear of ISIS-Inspired Terror Grows

Eleven people were injured, two seriously, when a man drove his car into crowds of pedestrians Sunday night in the French city of Dijon, shouting ‘God is Great’ in Arabic. It’s the latest in a series of apparent ‘lone-wolf’ terror attacks in the West. Henry Ridgwell looks at the growing threat of attacks, which security experts say are likely inspired by the so-called "Islamic State" terror group.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid