August 2016

The 2016 Olympics are there, but do not forget the paralympics

Paralympic athletes are no different from Olympic athletes. The only difference is that part of their body is missing or does not function properly. They are therefore classed as disabled.

By: Jill Streeten
Projects Abroad Volunteer
London - United Kingdom

Sophie Kamlish (Team GB) focuses on her next big race.
Photo by: Jill Streeten

These athletes deserve our praise and admiration. Not only have they fought with determination to overcome their disability, but have had to go that extra mile to prove themselves in their chosen sport, be it on the track and field, swimming, or skiing. They too can win those much sought after medals.


Most need nothing more than the stamina of their bodies to compete, but in cases of loss of limbs or of spinal injuries, sophisticated expensive equipment is required. Three wheeler racing wheelchairs have to be specifically built according to the weight and size of the athlete. They have to be light weight yet strong enough to withstand knocks and spills. Amputees need specially fitted prosthetic limbs, which if not fitted correctly cause soreness and pain. The prosthesis has to be built to the weight and size of the missing limb. Several layers of socks need to be fitted over the limb stump for comfort, but during the day as the body heat increases causing the stump to swell, the prosthesis has to be removed and the number of layers of socks reduced, once, maybe twice a day. It means the day has to be planned to allow the person to be in a suitable place to do this, which can impact their daily routine.

“I was once walking across a busy road when the foot fell off”

Experiences of a Paralympic athlete

“There is a funny side to having a prosthetic limb,” said Sophie, an athlete from Team Great Britain. “Once I was walking across a busy road when the foot fell off. I think people thought it was just my trainer. I am sure nobody realized there was an artificial foot inside. I had to call my mother to rescue me as it was too far to hop home. I didn’t tell them at college what had happened. They would have been embarrassed. My friends in our Paralympic team would have found it hilarious. We are a very supportive team and we are always ready to help each other. I think disabled people are much nicer than those not disabled.”

“Disabled people are much nicer than those not disabled”

A prosthesis built for day to day use is no use for running and a new skill has to be learned to adjust to having a carbon fiber blade screwed onto the end of the limb. “I thought I would slice off my other leg,” Sophie said when she first tried to adapt to her new blade. “My leg was covered in bruises for weeks until I got used to it.”

Desperate for sponsorship

The blade is screwed into the lower part of the prosthesis, and not only does it has to conform to length specifications per the Paralympic Body, but it also has to reflect the weight and stride of the individual and the angle the foot turns outwards. This requires hours of running down a track while the various aspects of the athlete’s running technique is studied in detail. As with racing wheelchairs, they cost thousands of dollars, so athletes are always desperate for sponsorship. Not only does equipment have to be paid for, but the cost of a coach and travel to various athletic events throughout the year as well. Even when the running blade has been meticulously made, it can take many more visits to the manufacturer to ensure a completely perfect fit. This again may take hours in terms of travel from home, not to mention the cost.

The Paralympics in Rio, Brazil, will open September 7th and will continue throughout the 18th. I hope the same support given to the Olympics will be given for the Paralympics

Sculptor Hans Richters; from clay into a good piece of arts
Hans Richters is a Dutch sculptor who lives in the Cochabamba’s countryside. Hans lives in freedom, has big dreams, and makes sculptures of people who he finds interesting in Cochabamba. I spoke to him to hear something about his interesting lifestyle and to see his impressive work.
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