Tokyo Paralympic workshops relish the challenge of repair
Tokyo (Japan) (AFP)
For Kevin Martyn, who repairs wheelchairs for high-impact rugby matches at the Tokyo Paralympic Games, working with sports equipment and prosthetics is the “ultimate puzzle”.
The 37-year-old Canadian is one of dozens of specialist technicians who have come to Japan to make sure athletes aren’t disappointed with their gear.
“I love these chairs because they are designed to hit each other as hard as possible,” Martyn told AFP as he adjusted the height of the front bar of a wheelchair in a pop-up workshop at the Yoyogi National Stadium.
“They’re built for impact, they break, and I love that I can be there to help fix them, so they can continue to play hard in a really intense sport.”
He works for Ottobock, a German company that has run repair shops at every Paralympic Games since 1988, with more than 100 employees from 23 countries present in Tokyo.
They are located at the venues and in the main workshop of the Paralympic Village, where runners come to have their blades serviced and archers can have a personalized 3D finger guard printed.
“Every job is different and a challenge, and sometimes you just don’t know what you’re going to get. For me, that’s the ultimate puzzle to be solved,” Martyn said.
Ottobock brought 17,300 spare parts to Tokyo so that repairs could be carried out quickly and efficiently.
But the company believes the load could one day be reduced with 3D printing, which is being tested in its workshop for the first time at the Tokyo Games.
“We have shipped four large containers from Europe so far, because we never know what the problem is – we have to bring a lot,” said Peter Franzel, Global Events Manager at Ottobock.
“We have a lot of tires, screws, nuts and bolts … we have the knee joints for the prostheses, we have the feet, we have the sockets, we have the liners.”
Right now, 3D printing is too slow to make large items in time for competitions, and the products could be more robust.
But Franzel has high hopes for the technology: “Maybe in the future we will only ship one 3D printer, and we print everything we need.
The team has already completed 800 repair jobs in the 10 days leading up to Friday and is available 24 hours a day for emergencies.
But Martyn said he enjoyed it all.
“Being able to help even a little bit – change a tube or fix a crack – you know you are making a big difference.”
© 2021 AFP