"Athletes compete in Beijing. Equipment used by Paralympians has seen remarkable improvements in recent years, enabling them to close the gap on their able-bodied counterparts and even look forward to a "bionic" future
Equipment used by Paralympians has seen remarkable improvements in recent years, enabling them to close the gap on their able-bodied counterparts and even look forward to a "bionic" future.
Paralympic sports have been transformed by the evolution of the wheelchair, with different models specially adapted to each discipline.
Endowed with better ergonomics than traditional models, the "sports" wheelchairs being used in the Beijing Games are made out of titanium or aircraft aluminium, and consequently much lighter and more manoeuvrable.
For tennis, two large slanted wheels with casters at the front allow powerful starts and pivots, opening the way for a more aggressive and faster game.
Since the end of the 1990s, developments in the "handbike" -- a three-wheeled bike propelled by hand -- have allowed disabled cyclists to attain speeds of up to 70 kilometres (44 miles) per hour on descent.
And while expensive and adapted for the requirements of top-level sport, the improvements have also led to lighter and more functional basic models for everyday use.
But the major breakthrough in the past 15 years has undoubtedly been in improvements to prosthetic limbs, thrown into the spotlight by the carbon fibre blades worn by South African double amputee sprinter Oscar Pistorius.
"Blade Runner", as Pistorius is known, sought to qualify for the Beijing Olympics after winning the silver medal against able-bodied competitors in the 400m sprint at the 2007 South African National Championships." (Continued via PhysOrg) [Ergonomics Resources]