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Ottobock: A Vital Service at the Heart of PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games

Date 10-Mar-2018


Within a temporary structure at the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Village, a team of technicians mend broken wheelchairs, sew leather pads on to prosthetic limbs and readjust the suspension profiles of a ski boot.
The Ottobock Repair Service Center for Prosthetics, Orthotics and Wheelchairs, which has been a fixture at Paralympic Winter and Summer Games since Seoul 1988, is a vital hub for attending athletes as they prepare for sporting contests in which the technical equipment has to be as finely tuned as their bodies and minds.
"They have trained very hard and very long and they should not be prevented from their competition because of a problem with equipment," said Peter Franzel, the service's director of marketing and sponsorship.
"So we are here to help and we're free for the athletes. Our first repair in PyeongChang was a pair of glasses. We really do try to make the lives of the athletes, the Paralympic family and the team officials as easy as possible.”
Franzel, from Austria ("so I was born on skis"), has been working in the role for 11 years. It is his responsibility to ensure the technicians have all the tools they need.
"There are two (shipping containers) of equipment," he said. "We have drilling machines, a welding unit and a grinding and milling machine (to smooth the inside) of a prosthesis.
"We are working on the perfect alignment of a Croatian cross-country skier's (boot). Where is the best alignment? What is the best place for him to put the force on the snow?
"This is what we’re testing with him, to find the perfect solution, the right angle."
Over the coming two weeks, Franzel expects to help more than 350 athletes with much of the work focused on repairing ice hockey equipment.
"They bang into each other very hard," he said. "This is a very rough sport and the sledges are under pressure.
"(But) we do anything. In London 2012 we repaired a paper shredder. It was for the organising committee and they were in the office next to us, and we managed to make it work again."
Of course, the greatest rewards arrive when customers go on to achieve podium success or exceed their personal ambitions.
"We do a repair for them and then one day later they win a medal," said Franzel. "They come back and say, 'Thank you for repairing, here's my medal. I won!'
"This is always an amazing, touching moment. It happens many, many times."

Source OIS