Material Innovation Leading to Controversy

Although this is not related to a building material, this is a good opportunity to show how far technology has brought us in material innovation.

If you were watching the Olympic games this summer, surely you heard the story of Oscar Pistorius.  The South African runner became the first double amputee ever to compete in the Olympics.  However, there has been much controversy among scientists and experts whether his legs give him an unfair advantage over his competitors.

In his time as a runner, Pistorius has earned the nickname “Blade Runner”.  He got this from the J-shaped, carbon fiber prosthetics he wears known as the Flex-Foot Cheetah.  The Flex-Foot Cheetah is the preferred choice for sporting activities by elite amputee athletes.  But as the sporting world always seems to question great stories, people think that they give him an unfair advantage.  In an original study performed in 2007, it was decided that these legs made Pistorius “Physiologically similar but mechanically dissimilar”.

After this is when people started questioning how his mechanical differences brought him to an even playing-field or an advantage.  One of the primary components to this argument is that Pistorius’ legs are less than half the weight of a typical sprinter, allowing him to reposition them at a 20% faster rate.  Another component to their argument is that his legs don’t tire like an able-bodied persons does.

On the other side of the argument, because of the Flex-Foot Cheetah’s lightweight springy nature Pistorius needs to push down harder to generate the same amount of force that an able-bodied runner receives.  While others say that everyone has their own technique, which gives him neither advantage nor disadvantage.

Personally, I think that anyone arguing that he has an advantage, is highly unintelligent.  Although these prosthetics have made the unimaginable possible for amputee athletes,  I think we must remember that his success has been achieved because of dedication and hard work.  These aren’t jet propelled legs that shoot him around the track at the speed of a racecar.


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