Disabled man from Aylesbury competing in first ever ‘bionic Olympics’

Johnny Beer from Aylesbury is competing in the first ever 'bionic Olympics' in Zurich

Johnny Beer from Aylesbury is competing in the first ever 'bionic Olympics' in Zurich

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A disabled man from Aylesbury is travelling to Zurich next month to take part in the first ever ‘bionic Olympics’.

Johnny Beer, who is paralysed from the chest down, is taking part in the Cybathlon world championship for athletes with disabilities.

Johnny Beer from Aylesbury is competing in the first ever 'bionic Olympics' in Zurich

Johnny Beer from Aylesbury is competing in the first ever 'bionic Olympics' in Zurich

The 21-year-old will be representing Great Britain in the Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) race, which allows people with a spinal cord injury to pedal a cycling device.

Mr Beer will be competing in a 750m race using a bike which is powered by his leg muscles, which are stimulated by an electric current sent through pads placed on his skin.

The first-ever Cybathlon starts on Saturday, October 8, in the SWISS Arena in Zurich and will feature six events, using the latest bionic technology.

Mr Beer, who was paralysed in a trampoline accident five years ago, said he had been training hard on his bike and was hoping to be successful.

He said: “The event is different from the Paralympics as that is not so technology focussed and does not cater for the extremely disabled.

“For example, you can’t take part in the Paralympics if you are on a ventilator but you can in the Cybathlon.

“The competitors use assisted technology so anyone with any mental capacity can take part.”

Mr Beer is being supported by Imperial College, who have provided software support for his FES Bike, and he said he had been using the bike most days for the past four years.

If the Cybathlon is a success, there are plans to hold a follow-up at Stoke Mandeville Hospital near Aylesbury, which played a key role in the creation of the Paralympics.

Mr Beer said: “I would like that to happen. It would be really cool if the event came here.”

Many of the events in the Cybathlon test the speed and skill of how competitors cope with specific challenges and activities from everyday life.

There are races for athletes with powered arm and leg prostheses, for those wearing a robotic exoskeleton and for powered wheelchairs. There’s also a race for athletes using a brain-computer interface race.

The Cybathlon is the idea of Prof Robert Riener from ETH Zurich University.

He said it came to him after chatting to an acquaintance with a false arm.

Professor Riener told the BBC: “He mentioned standing in a cinema queue and having to take out his wallet with his prosthetic arm. It was always a challenge to do it quickly and he was embarrassed because his arm was loud.

“I realised current technology is not well developed and thought a competition would motivate research labs to talk to patients and come up with better solutions.”

For more information about Cybathlon go to www.cybathlon.ethz.ch