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Sprinter loves his flexi-feet
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08:46, September 16, 2008

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· Paralympics
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Without the help of a flex feet prosthetics, Australian Paralympian Stephen Wilson may not have had the chance to participate in three Paralympics since Sydney, where he won two gold medals.

Not just for Wilson, the flex feet have been a first-choice prosthetic for most athletes with one or both legs amputated, including "Blade Runner" Oscar Pistorius of South Africa.

The J-shaped prosthetic sprinting foot takes the place of an amputated leg using carbon fibre and titanium for strength, light weight and extra flexibility. It initially was fairly limited, suitable only for certain types of amputees.

"Now everyone uses it," Wilson, 36, said after finishing 5th in the 100m final of class T-44 at the Bird's Nest.

"I have been running on this for about 10 years. It makes my job easier than running on a standard leg," he said.

Wilson was just 12 when he was run over by a truck. His injury was so serious that doctors were forced to amputate his right leg, just below the knee. The accident happened two days before an athletics carnival in which Wilson had intended to compete.

"I thought I was washed up! No more sport. Enjoy myself? I thought it was pretty tough," Wilson said.

However, after having an artificial leg made, he discovered he could still play sport with his friends. In year 10, he was a member of his high school's second team for basketball.

Wilson went as a spectator to the Australian Disabled Athletics Championships in 1996.

It was the first time he had seen other amputees run. He watched what they achieved and thought there was no reason why he could not do the same.

But the prosthetic, or "standard", legs he used at the start "were not as good as these now", he said.

"When I was young, they were a lot heavier and didn't give you a lot push back," Wilson, said.

"I think sport has given me a sense of worth.

"Being disabled, you may think I am sick. But with the prosthetic, I know I run faster than most people with two legs," the father of three children, said.

At the Paralympic Village there is a center to repair false limbs and wheelchairs.

Sponsored by Otto Bock HealthCare GmbH, the center has provided free services to more than 1,500 international athletes.

Source: China Daily

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