PYEONGCHANG, South Korea — How do you build a Paralympian? You start with the raw material of a great athlete, add hard work, skill and dedication. But it also takes the right equipment, and no, you can’t just go to the hardware store on the corner.
Ottobock, an official sponsor of the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Games has been supplying the para-athletes with prosthetic limbs, wheelchairs, sleds and other supplies and repairs since before a lot of the Paralympian were born, approximately 30 years. The limbs and the technology has changed, but it’s still about making a difference and allowing the to athletes compete.
In PyeongChang’s Paralympic Village you can find the technicians working hard to mold wheelchairs and repair them to be as sturdy as they can be, no matter how the damage happened. Their machinery includes belt sanders and drills as well as other power tools. The techs are the real keys to victory for the athletes here in the village. A broken apparatus, wheelchair, or sled and these Paralympians hopes would be dashed, and they could be possibly hurt in the process.
One of the unique advantages that is offered to the athletes for free at the service center is legs for skiing and snowboarding at this Winter Games. The model that the athletes are using from Ottobock uses compressed air to maintain balance and poise while gliding down the mountain at speeds of 30 miles per hour or more for certain Paralympians. Other legs that Ottobock offers are of the blade variety used for running in the Summer Paralympic Games. A third prosthetic is a blade, but it has a shoe attachment for walking casually. Ottobock also makes the sleds that are being used for the Sled Hockey Tournament.
Ottobock has been very busy. In the two weeks that the athletes have been in PyeongChang for the games, they have recorded more than 344 repairs as of Friday, March 16, 2018. That number is up from Sochi, where there were 260 repairs for the whole games.
However, there is potential problem for athletes who are looking to medal, because in some countrieslike the United States of America, the cost of a prosthetic could be upwards of $6,000, and insurance won’t necessarily cover the limbs for everyone. This means that the next crop of American athletes might have to be really rich or really lucky to get to the games.
As for this Paralympian crowd? Some might have some screws loose, or be a couple bolts short shown by the way they are fearless on the slopes, sheets, or rink. It’s good to know they have a place to go to solve most of their problems and help the athletes stand just a little bit taller.