Thursday, 21 July 2011

Working in Montréal today --Bionics In The Olympics

Good morning folks,
I will be in Montréal today till mid afternoon and then off to Ottawa until late evening and then back to Toronto around 11 P.M.
So here is a tidbit of thought for you, South African Ocsar Pistorius was born without fibulas or is that fibulae, is either event, lower leg bones were absent, this resulted in a subsequent amputation of his lower legs when he was 6 months old.
Mr. Pistorius can run the 400 meter in a hair over 45 seconds.  That's fast, I mean real fast.  that's an average velocity of 32 Km/H.  Fast enough to qualify for the World Track Championships next month in South Korea.  How?  He wears the approximately 1 meter long Flex Foot Cheetahs made of carbon fiber, making him what is known as a blade runner.
Question though, should he be competing against mere human legged runners?  Don't get me wrong, I think it is great that this guy can run like the wind, and I congratulate him on making the best of what he has been dealt.  But.
And it's a big but..  He may have quite an unfair advantage over his fibulae owning rivals.  There is little they can do to increase the efficiency of their bones, they have pretty much a set spring rate, Mr. Pistorius on the other hand, or foot, benefits from any future development on the blades, perhaps next year's model will have an interleaved layer of prestressed polyester to aid in controlling the energy release during leg kickoff, or a vented lower foot section to help dissipate heat resulting in greater consistency of flex, I'm just spit balling here but any improvement could help shave off a quarter second here, a half second there.
Hell, just making the damn things longer result in faster times.  What can Roger Black (British Silver Medalist in the 400) do to get longer more springy legs?
So what do you think?  how do we measure the advantage that prosthetics may give an athlete -- how do we distinguish the difference between an amazing athlete that has overcome a physical disadvantage from a mediocre athlete with magic shoes?  
More succinctly, should he be allowed to complete?

6 comments:

  1. "Two scientific teams presented their findings to the CAS. One team of scientists, led by Peter Brüggemann had been hired by the IAAF. The findings of an American team of scientists were presented by Hugh Herr and Rodger Kram.
    Three judges presided: one from the IAAF, one chosen by Oscar Pistorius’ team and one who was neutral. It was a unanimous decision by all three judges to overturn the IAAF ban on Oscar Pistorius competing in events under their jurisdiction." http://www.oscarpistorius.com/about/oessur-flex-foot-cheetah

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