Paralympic '4S stores' provide 300 repairs to keep athletes' gear in perfect shape
Published: Mar 13, 2022 08:40 PM
A German prosthetics and wheelchair repairman shows how to repair a wheelchair at the National Stadium in Beijing on March 6, 2022. Photo: Xinhua

A German prosthetics and wheelchair repairman shows how to repair a wheelchair at the National Stadium in Beijing on March 6, 2022. Photo: Xinhua

As about 600 athletes prepared to say good-bye to the Beijing Paralympic Games on Sunday, a team of more than 40 expert technicians who provided some 300 free repairs to make sure the athletes' wheelchairs, prostheses and orthoses stayed in perfect shape for the competitions, were finishing their work in this year's Games. 

Ottobock, a healthtech company based in Duderstadt, Germany, that has served as technical service partner for the Paralympic Games since 1988, told the Global Times that it had set up three full-scale centers for the first time in each of the Paralympic Villages in Beijing, Yanqing and Zhangjiakou. The centers were equipped with socket routers, band saws, infrared ovens, box column drills and welding apparatus.

There were also five other smaller Repair Service Centers at venues for prompt on-site support: para ice hockey (Beijing), para Alpine skiing (Yanqing), para biathlon, cross-country skiing and snowboarding (Zhangjiakou), according to the company.

The Paralympic athletes were able to come to the Centers - called "4S stores" in the Paralympic Games on Chinese social media platforms - to have their equipment maintained and repaired free of charge before and during competitions. More than 40 technicians from 12 countries and regions worked in these centers to take care of all the technical aspects so the athletes could focus fully on their performances and the competitions. 

The company said that it had provided 353 repairs for athletes as of Saturday.  

We can repair wheelchairs for the athletes as well as substitute prostheses and orthoses for them to make sure that the athletes could go to the competitions, said Peter Franzel, head of global events, exhibitions & sports at Ottobock, who was in charge of the centers. 

The work could be very stressful. "We never know what is coming next. We never know what the next repair is," Franzel told the Global Times. 

But the work was certainly vital for athletes, given the enormous demands placed on the equipment used in the Paralympic sports such as para snowboarding, biathlons and ice hockey. 

For example, on Saturday, China successfully defended its 2018 Paralympic gold medal in wheelchair curling. According to Franzel, in a previous competition, a Chinese curling athlete's wheelchair broke when the competition was due to start in just about one hour. The technicians tried their best to fix the wheelchair, making sure the athlete attended the competition on time.     

Franzel was also in Beijing for the 2008 Summer Paralympic Games. He said that coming back to Beijing after 14 years, he has witnessed great developments in services for people with disabilities in China. People with disabilities get more public attentions in the country and this is good for everyone, he said. 

Franzel worried about the impact of COVID-19 before the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Games, which opened on March 4. But the excellent work of the Beijing organizing committee eased his concerns. 

"I'm coming from Europe, I'm coming from Germany, and we have really high numbers ... Here in China, it's really zero… everything is fine here and we have the closed-loop system, so it's really a great job," Franzel said.