‘It’s like the pit lane in motor sport’: Inside the Invictus Games wheelchair repair centre

"I like to think of us as a pit crew," wheelchair technician Amy Bjornson says, surrounded by thousands of nuts, bolts, and tyre tubes in the wheelchair workshop at Sydney's Olympic Park.

Ms Bjornson is one of 40 people who have volunteered to repair the wheelchairs, prosthetics and orthotics used by some of the 500 competitors at the Invictus Games in Sydney.

The missing nut or bolt may not sound like much, but Ms Bjornson said the repairs can be crucial.

"Think about how far some of these people have travelled and how much time they've put in in terms of preparation, and for them to have a critical failure at the last minute — we've got to fix it for them," she said.

"It's incredibly important because if their equipment can't perform, then they can't perform."

"We just had a couple of people in here and within three minutes they were back rolling."

Wheelchair technician Amy Bjornson smiling at the camera.

Flat tyres, missing bolts are common

Competitors have travelled from 18 nations to compete in 12 sports including wheelchair tennis and wheelchair rugby.

According to prosthetist Stephen Harland, the diverse range of competitors' backgrounds means the equipment can vary widely.

"There's definitely a difference between developed and less developed countries," Mr Harland said.

"Some people are doing sport on what I would call an everyday basic prosthesis and people in first world countries typically have a sports prosthesis — a carbon fibre foot."

Ms Bjornson agreed, saying the difference in the craftmanship was noticeable.

"We just had a guy here in with a hand cycle that had the wrong tube, the wrong size and the wrong tyre," she said.

"That just wouldn't happen here [in Australia]."

Prosthetist Stephen Harland smiling at camera.

But whatever the quality, many competitors had trouble during travel.

"All these guys came from foreign countries and they came on an aeroplane probably, so we expect that their wheelchairs might be damaged," she said.

"Over the weekend they had some airline damage, so we repaired that — flat tyres, bolts and nuts that have come off, brakes that need adjustment."

"It's more common than we would like it to be."

Essential support for those on the field

For competitors, the service has been vital.

"My whole shoulder is gone, so [my prosthetic] is fundamental to my everyday life," Dan Richards, a cycling competitor from Team UK, said.

Mr Richards lost his arm in a motorbike accident in Afghanistan.

On Monday, he had his faulty prosthetic fixed in five minutes.

Two men talking.

"This is my first prosthetics appointment in about two years, so the fact that this is here is quite reassuring" he said.

"That I can just come down and say, 'My strap is broken, anything you can do with it?'

"I've sat down for five minutes and they're already working on it."

Original Article


ABC .net


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