To celebrate the start of the 2016 Paralympics we have discovered a few sports people who are using titanium to help them become the amazing sports people they are.
Athletes today are running further, jumping higher, swimming faster and seemingly doing things unimaginable to audiences and sports fans not so long ago. “At present, most people are using either aluminium alloy or titanium. Carbon fibre technology is likely to be the next step, but at this stage, cost is the barrier.”
Masaki Fujita Japan
Bronze at London 2012
Eleven years ago, after Masaki Fujita lost both legs in an auto accident, he visited Saito’s workplace. Fujita was looking for a prosthetic he could use for competing in the triathlon.
Saito was intrigued because it was still a time when maybe only one in 100 people would inquire about a prosthetic for use in sports.
Having never made a prosthetic for cycling, Saito started from scratch. He first tried fiddling with a prosthetic for daily use, but the spring that made it easier to walk was too flexible when pedaling and energy was not directly transmitted.
That was when Saito focused on a foot part called a “Dollinger.”
Both Fujita and Saito agreed that the prosthetic did not have to have a shape exactly like a human leg as long as it had the ability to pedal the bicycle.
A foot part was created by carving a piece of wood and covering it with carbon. That foot part was then attached to a pipe. The two called their invention “Dollinger-Z.”
The results came soon enough as Fujita won three medals at the Beijing Paralympics. For the London Paralympics, titanium was used for the foot part to increase durability and lighten the weight. Once again, Fujita won a medal.
Amy Purdy US
Bronze at Sochi 2014
The Paralympian snowboarder came second on “Dancing With the Stars” in 2014. She danced rings around her competition on her prosthetic legs. But the springy running blades she danced on in Rio on September the 7th were different from the stiffer, less responsive legs she sported in the dance competition. The titanium and carbon-fiber blades put a high-tech twist on Purdy’s samba-inspired performance at Maracana Stadium “They’re made to propel you forward, but you can’t really stop that whole time, ‘cause they store energy,” Purdy says from Rio, where she’s spent the past month rehearsing. “But once I mastered it, I found myself with more movement in my blades.”
So she knew the running blades would work fine. She wanted to make sure she could whip her hips like a Carnival dancer. Before she said yes to the dance, Purdy worked on those circling actions at her home in Colorado, with the show’s choreographer. “It’s the relationship of the human spirit with technology,” Purdy says. “That’s really what the Paralympics is about, these amazing athletes and this technology that’s allowing them to reach their full potential.”
Jay LaPointe US
Jay LaPointe, who lives in Las Vegas, Nevada, was given a 3% chance that he would walk or feed himself again after crashing during a motocross training ride on June 10th 2004. At the time he was a successful racer aiming to become a professional. After breaking three converted carbon fiber bicycle frames in quick succession, LaPointe concluded that the particular frame stresses when cornering required a different approach, and he started looking at custom-made options with metal as the material.
LaPointe approached www.wittson.com, a company that specialises in custom titanium bikes, to build him a bespoke machine. “Having a custom trike has made a huge difference in not just competing but everyday training rides have become easier as well,” he says.
LaPointe says the frame shape itself was the main adaptation, along with Shimano Di2 electronic shifters because the function in his right hand is “pretty much zero”.
“The most obvious [adaptation] is the sloping top tube, which not only helps me not hit my knee repeatedly but also allows me to be able to dismount my trike much easier when I have a flat tire or to do something as simple as getting more water at the store,” he says.
Frame builder, Mindaugas Zukauskas, told road.cc this is the first titanium trike Wittson have built.
It translates into longer, less painful rides with that sweet Titanium feel I’ve heard so much about. Wittson just nailed it and I can’t thank them enough for trying something new!!”