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11 September 2008, 09:41 am
Equipment, Medical Advances and Ideas Exchanged at the Paralympics
Vasileios CHRISTOFOROU competing onboard the Greek Sonar
Vasileios CHRISTOFOROU competing onboard the Greek Sonar

2008 Beijing Paralympic Games
Qingdao, China

In addition to being a terrific international sporting competition, the Paralympics is a swap meet of medical advances, physiotherapy ideas and equipment.
A great example of the exchange of ideas and equipment enabled Vasileios CHRISTOFOROU (GRE), a tetrapilegic, to compete in the 2004 Paralympic Sailing Competition in his home country and to further improve the seat and the steering mechanism he uses in his Sonar.

CHRISTOFOROU sits in the middle of his Sonar and controls the rudder that steers his boat with what looks like the upside down pedals and the chain of a bicycle. He sits in a special chair that goes back and forth from one side of the boat to the other.

While surfing the Internet, CHRISTOFOROU came across a photo of the steering mechanism and chair that one of the American Sonar teams used in their boat.

Unable to re-create the complicated system with two-month's notice before the 2004 Paralympics, CHRISTOFOROU contacted Gene HINKEL (USA) who is in Qingdao as the Chief Measurer for the 2008 Paralympic Sailing Competition and has been involved in and coaching Paralympic sailing since before the Atlanta Games in 1996.

HINKEL put him in touch with Keith BURHANS (USA), the chair's developer and the co-chair of the 2007 IFDS World Championships in Rochester, New York, USA.

The Greeks hired BURHANS as their technical advisor and coach and did well in the 2004 Paralympics with the chair and steering apparatus.

They have returned to the Paralympics with an all carbon fibre version of the chair and an improved steering mechanism.

Said CHRISTOFOROU, "If I had not contacted Keith, I would not be able to sail Sonars. The chair that I have in Qingdao is 13 kilograms and it is made out of carbon fibre. The one that I had in Athens was 40 kilograms. The steering mechanism is the same. I am grateful that Keith [BURHANS] and Paul CALLAHAN [(USA)] developed the system and were willing to share the technology with us, otherwise I would not be able to compete in the Sonar."

There are many pieces of equipment and prostheses being shown off at IFDS events, particularly at the 2008 Paralympic Sailing Competition where there are 41 boats registered in the event and 37 wheelchairs registered at the hotel in the Athletes' Village. Additionally, means of arresting degenerative diseases through the use of bio-resonance and stem cell treatments are being discussed in this sporting environment.

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ISAF Paralympic Games microsite -

Paralympic News Service (As Amended by ISAF)
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