Broken legs, sledges, wheelchairs at Paralympics repair shop

Turkish skier Mehmet Cekic thought his Winter Paralympic dreams had come to an early end when the foot of his prosthetic leg cracked during a practice run in Pyeongchang.

But a team of technicians quickly patched up the device, allowing him to compete, one of many athletes given vital help at a hi-tech Winter Paralympics workshop.

With 567 Paralympians in Pyeongchang competing in high-octane sports from sledge ice hockey to downhill skiing, damage to prosthetic limbs and specialist sports equipment is common.

The centre run by German prosthetics giant Ottobock, which is filled with a huge array of equipment and manned by 23 technicians, seeks to ensure that mishaps don’t prevent athletes from competing.

As well as fixing prosthetic limbs, the technicians based in a warehouse in the athletes’ village also patch up wheelchairs and repair gear such as para-ice hockey sledges and sit-skis, used by skiers with leg impairments.

“Every repair is different,” Peter Franzel, a director at Ottobock and head of the workshop, told AFP.

“It’s not like changing oil in a car, it’s really highly individual.”

Athletes can drop in to the 300-square-metre (3,200-square-foot) centre during opening hours, from 8:00 am to 9:00 pm, and it also has a 24-hour emergency phone line.

Most repairs take place on workbenches, where technicians tinker with sit-skis, wheelchairs, and artificial legs, while athletes chat and wait for work to be finished.

The workshop is home to a mind-boggling array of equipment — from welding machines to metal grinders and high-powered drills, and sewing machines for leather straps and wheelchair fabric.

Ottobock shipped about 8,000 spare parts out for the Games, and can also order extras from its warehouse in Seoul if needed. They also have repair centres at several of the venues.