Improving Paralympian Tech Causes Controversy

Some worry technology is making double amputees unbeatable
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 17, 2016 1:30 PM CDT
At Paralympics, 1 Leg Isn't Always Better Than None
Paralympian runner AJ Digby takes off in a full sprint during a workout in August in Ohio.   (Cameron Hart/The Blade via AP)

Here's how good technology for prosthetic running blades has become. The AP reports Greek runner Michail Seitis set a world record for his division with a time of 49.66 seconds in the men's 400-meter final on Thursday. He came in sixth place out of eight runners. The five who finished ahead of him were double amputees. Technology for prosthetics has improved so much that it is actually better to be a double amputee in track and field than a single amputee, says US sprinter David Prince, who lost his right leg in a motorcycle accident. That pace of development has accented a trend within Paralympic sports. Sometimes better technology has created a gap between athletes within the same division who have distinctly different levels of disability.

Technological developments are both exciting, and—to Prince—somewhat concerning. He worries that some athletes, such as single amputees like himself, will be left behind. "Last year and this year were really hard for me to stay motivated to actually continue training, because I go into the race knowing that [double amputees] run faster times and I know I'll get beat," he said. At the same time, he does not begrudge double amputees for availing themselves of whatever is within the rules. Instead, Prince believes it's time for single and double amputees to start competing separately, otherwise "there's not going to be any unilateral amputees running because we won't have a chance." (Read more Paralympics stories.)

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