During last month’s London Paralympic Games, bionics played a huge role in pushing the boundaries for the participating athletes. It speaks volumes for the quality of today’s state-of-the-art prosthetics that double amputees like Oscar Pistorius can compete in the Paralympics—where he won three gold medals and set two world records—and the Olympics. I for one will never forget his inspiring performance in the semifinals of the 400-meter race during the “able-bodied” Olympics. And there is no doubt in my mind that he will be the first of many crossover athletes that contend in both of these biennial events.
Accompanying Oscar on his incredible journey to the very pinnacle of his sport have been his prosthetic carbon-fiber running blades—the Flex-Foot Cheetah® from Össur. The unique design of these passive feet has become the gold standard internationally for elite athletes with limb loss. It has also given rise to Oscar’s affectionate alias: the Blade Runner.
Draft Wheelchairs made the wheelchairs for many Paralympic athletes. As a matter of fact, athletes using the company’s equipment won seven gold medals and two silvers in London. Draft is one of many companies producing wheelchairs and handcycles resembling Formula 1 cars in terms of aerodynamic capability. Needless to say, the technological advances and attention to detail are astounding.
Perhaps the most remarkable yet unsung hero of both the Olympics and Paralympics was Claire Lomas, also known as the “Bionic Woman.” In 2007, Claire was paralysed from the chest down after breaking her back in a horse-riding accident. Using a £45,000 bionic suit developed by Argo Medical Technologies, Claire walked the marathon in 17 days, raising £200,000 for research into spinal damage.
No doubt then that the companies funding research and advancements for this amazing technology used the Paralympics as a platform to show the world their efforts and stimulate further funding. In general these firms have gone relatively unnoticed. But now is the time to push their own brand image and elevate their profile.
My hope is that the success that these companies had will encourage and motivate other amputees to come forward and participate. One thing is for certain—the technology is nothing without the determination and drive of the inspirational athletes behind them.
Paralympians, I salute you.
Max Hurford is a business development executive for Siegel+Gale’s London office.