The article you just read was brought to you by a few thousand dedicated readers. Will you join them?

Thanks for coming by The Tyee and reading one of many original articles we’ll post today. Our team works hard to publish in-depth stories on topics that matter on a daily basis. Our motto is: No junk. Just good journalism.

Just as we care about the quality of our reporting, we care about making our stories accessible to all who want to read them and provide a pleasant reading experience. No intrusive ads to distract you. No paywall locking you out of an article you want to read. No clickbait to trick you into reading a sensational article.

There’s a reason why our site is unique and why we don’t have to rely on those tactics — our Tyee Builders program. Tyee Builders are readers who chip in a bit of money each month (or one-time) to our editorial budget. This amazing program allows us to pay our writers fairly, keep our focus on quality over quantity of articles, and provide a pleasant reading experience for those who visit our site.

In the past year, we’ve been able to double our staff team and boost our reporting. We invest all of the revenue we receive into producing more and better journalism. We want to keep growing, but we need your support to do it.

Fewer than 1 in 100 of our average monthly readers are signed up to Tyee Builders. If we reach 1% of our readers signing up to be Tyee Builders, we could continue to grow and do even more.

If you appreciate what The Tyee publishes and want to help us do more, please sign up to be a Tyee Builder today. You pick the amount, and you can cancel any time.

Support our growing independent newsroom and join Tyee Builders today.
Before you click away, we have something to ask you…

Do you value independent journalism that focuses on the issues that matter? Do you think Canada needs more in-depth, fact-based reporting? So do we. If you’d like to be part of the solution, we’d love it if you joined us in working on it.

The Tyee is an independent, paywall-free, reader-funded publication. While many other newsrooms are getting smaller or shutting down altogether, we’re bucking the trend and growing, while still keeping our articles free and open for everyone to read.

The reason why we’re able to grow and do more, and focus on quality reporting, is because our readers support us in doing that. Over 5,000 Tyee readers chip in to fund our newsroom on a monthly basis, and that supports our rockstar team of dedicated journalists.

Join a community of people who are helping to build a better journalism ecosystem. You pick the amount you’d like to contribute on a monthly basis, and you can cancel any time.

Help us make Canadian media better by joining Tyee Builders today.
We value: Our readers.
Our independence. Our region.
The power of real journalism.
We're reader supported.
Get our newsletter free.
Help pay for our reporting.
News

Fastest Human, Under Construction

Prosthetics may zoom amputees past 'able bodied' sprinters.

By Ian Gregson 16 Mar 2006 | TheTyee.ca
image atom

In the mid-1980's, a breakthrough in the world of prosthetic limbs occurred. An amputee by the name of Van Philips, disillusioned with the response of his existing foot, set about reinventing the prosthetic foot. As a result, the Flex Foot was born; a lightweight foot [that looked nothing like a foot] made from carbon fibre, the consequence of which has improved the lives of thousands of amputees around the world.

The Flex Foot has gone through several refinements since the 1980's, as a result, amputee sprinters are racing towards an Olympic showdown with their non-amputee counterparts.

Amputee runners benefited from the technological advance almost immediately. The first proponent of running on the Flex Foot was former soccer player Dennis Oehler. Oehler shaved seconds off 100m, 200m and 400m at the 1988 Paralympics in Seoul. However, in 1992 and 1996 a new phenom by the name of Tony Volpentest took over the crown, made even more phenomenal by the fact Volpentest was a double arm amputee and leg amputee below the knee.

In the summer of 2003, American Marlon Shirley became the first leg amputee to break the 10 second barrier for the 100 meters. In 2005, Shirley's records were surpassed by South African Oscar Pistorius who clocked a 21.4 for the 200m and 47.34 for the 400m. Pistorius' time in the 400m surpassed the gold medal winning time in the men's 400m event at the 1928 Olympics. At the current rate of improvement, a leg amputee could at least qualify for the 2012 Olympics with possible records being broken shortly thereafter.

However, a significant barrier must be broken before any amputee sprinters gets anywhere near an Olympic qualifying heat.

'Challenged' or 'assisted'?

As it stands, there are numerous examples of where athletes with disabilities have been denied competition against their "able-bodied" counterparts. In 1976, a Canadian above knee amputee qualified for the Montreal Olympics 10 meter pistol shooting event. Shortly after qualifying at the Canadian trials, the shooter who garnered 3rd place behind the amputee shooter complained the prosthetic leg was a "support device". As a result of the challenge and the slow moving process of interpreting the problem, he was denied the right to compete at the '76 games, even after qualifying.

Other similar instances of rules being inappropriately applied have arisen, with amputee athletes bearing the brunt of the inappropriateness.

Given this past history, chances are amputee sprinters will never make it to an Olympic sprint final, regardless of how fast they run. The narrow position between "challenged" and "assisted" is practically non-existent; amputee sprinters will be interpreted as one or the other. As long as there is a disgruntled athlete willing to use rules to this end, amputee sprinters will have to face this hurdle sooner or later at the Olympic level. History shows us that rules eventually get changed, slowly and only after the fact.

Sport is often held as a mirror to our society, sport often reflects our changing societal values and vice versa. If and when this particular change happens, it could well be interpreted as the most important technological improvement on the human body; the ramifications of this event are staggering. Combined with a worldwide media audience of millions, how we as a society accept or reject the validity of prosthetic limbs as an improvement to the human body will be subject of many philosophical debates far beyond the scope of sport and "disability".

Ian Gregson's book Irresistible Force: The story of disability sport in Canada, published by Raincoast books. He operates amputee-online.com the internet's most popular amputee oriented web site.  [Tyee]

Share this article

The Tyee is supported by readers like you

Join us and grow independent media in Canada

Facts matter. Get The Tyee's in-depth journalism delivered to your inbox for free

LATEST STORIES

The Barometer

Tyee Poll: What Coverage Would You Like to See More of This Year?

Take this week's poll