The 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro will see new innovations for athletes using wheelchairs to compete.
In preparation for this summer’s Olympics in Brazil, German automaker BMW has developed an innovative racing wheelchair for athletes. This comes two years after re-imagining the bobsled with a lighter, sleeker design for team USA.
This year, the automotive giant chose to focus on Paralympic athletes.
“The idea is the wheelchair disappears and it is just about the athletes,” said Brad Cracchiola, BMW Designworks project lead. “These athletes are truly incredible and work very hard, they just don’t have a lot of publicity.”
The racing wheelchairs do not look like traditional wheelchairs and feature long, sleek, low designs with three narrow wheels. Their aerodynamic design is made of carbon fiber and only includes the essential parts necessary to the rider.
Further distancing themselves from other racing chairs, each one is customized for the athlete who will be using it. Using a pairing of 3D scans and body measurements of each of the six athletes on Team USA, each chair is molded to fit that particular athlete with minimal movement during a race.
Six-time world champion and gold medalist Josh George is one of the lucky few who have had the chance to test out the chairs to confirm the chairs are ready for racing. This year’s games will be his fourth Paralympics as he plans to compete in the 400, 800, 1500 and 5000 meter races in addition to a marathon.
Technological advances like these bring hope to the 3.3 million wheelchair users in the United States, some of whom may be looking to participate in wheelchair sports themselves.
“You’re basically turning us into cyborgs, part machine and part human, and you have to be able to interact with that machine seamlessly to get the most out of it,” said George.