A PARALYMPIC athlete is aiming to make a significant impact at the 2012 Games after working with a Blyth company to design a bespoke chair.
Stephen Miller competes in the club throw and was keen to develop a chair to suit his needs following a hip injury.
The 31-year-old professional athlete, from Cramlington, underwent specialist studies to discover his optimum angle for release when throwing in athletic competitions, with his chair at the time restricting him to an angle of 90 degrees.
UK Athletics organised for Stephen to undergo gait analysis in Birmingham, which examined his technique and discovered his optimum throwing range required a 140-degree angle of release.
As a result, Stephen enlisted the skills of Blyth-based Tharsus Group – who specialises in the engineering and manufacturer of complex electro-mechanical products – to develop the design of a new chair.
Tharsus design engineer John Kelso said: “Working on Stephen’s chair was one of the most unusual and bespoke products I have ever done.
“Stephen’s original chair’s vertical back was restricting his movement, meaning he was unable to make a throw matching his true capabilities.
“Stephen has been the driving force in the redesign, his ideas and focus on what he wanted to achieve made me passionate to create something that really worked for him and was specifically tailored to his needs.
“Once 140 degrees was concluded as the optimum angle we created a fixed back at this angle.
“We then started to develop the footrest positioning as Stephen explained to me that his current chair was not comfortable for his natural position.
“We altered the design so that the feet could be positioned at different levels.
“The chair works by strapping Stephen in by his thighs, the chair is static and fixed to the ground. Stephen can then use all his force to throw a club with the free range of movement the new angled back provides.”
Stephen, who will represent Great Britain in the Paralympic Games in London next summer, said: “I have worked hard for years, studying with research professors to try and find out how I can better improve my athletic abilities.
“Tharsus have helped me take one step closer to achieving more by creating a chair that is tailored to my needs, and I have already seen a vast improvement in my achievements.
“In my old chair the greatest throwing distance I achieved this year was around 28 metres. In my bespoke Tharsus chair, I recently managed a distance of 31.29 metres to win the National Championships, proving the design works well.
“I’m glad I was able to work with Tharsus as they really listened to what I wanted to accomplish with the redesign and I always felt involved.”