One of the most amazing things I saw at NAIDEX this year was the bionic suit created by ReWalk which provides an exoskeleton for amputees and quadriplegics. Claire Lomas is a shining example of how robotics and determination can work together to achieve greatness.
Claire Lomas, from Leicestershire, was paralysed from the chest down in a riding accident in 2007.
She began the half marathon, which runs from Newcastle to South Shields, on Wednesday and crossed the finish line at about 10:00 BST.
The 36-year-old, who is 16 weeks pregnant, said she was “over the moon” to finish the run.
She broke her neck, back and ribs and punctured a lung when her horse threw her off as she took part in the Osberton Horse Trials in Nottinghamshire.
Mrs Lomas has no feeling below her chest and used a ReWalk robotic exoskeleton, which relies on motion sensors to help her move and lift her legs to walk the route.
“It doesn’t just walk for me. I have to use the parts that aren’t paralysed to make it walk.”
She walked about three miles a day with the help of her husband Dan and was met at the finish line by her five-year-old daughter Maisie.
She said she had struggled to train because of morning sickness which meant there were times when she did not think she would make it to the start.
“I had quite a lot of morning sickness. I didn’t have the lead up I wanted, but I really did not want to lose this opportunity,” she said.
In 2012, Mrs Lomas completed the London Marathon in last place, inspiring many people with her courage and determination.
Well, we have just been through an incredible 16 days of Olympic excitement in RIO. I have been glue to my sofa every night watching niche sports into the early hours on BBC. I had never shown any interest before in women’s hockey events BUT when we have a Team GB match with medals at the end of it then it takes on a whole new dimension. I guess that is the whole point of the Olympic games – it makes us aware of sports we might never otherwise watch and so we learn and get engaged emotionally with the result.
Hopefully the Paralympics will be the same. In London 2012 we all watched with fascination at blind football and wheelchair archery, we all discovered a whole new group of athletic heroes. This has had a longterm effect on the disabled community. Not just a sense of pride but an increased desire to participate and get fitter. Not everyone can be an ‘Olympic’ athlete but all people disabled and fully able can improve their physical activity, health, flexibility and spirit of achievement. We are worried, of course, about how the Rio Paralympic games will turn out. There are money worries and some countries will not have the funding to travel to the games. The Russian drugs ban will remove a large swathe of great olympic talent which will affect a whole range of sports. Already the Brazilian organisers have warned of low ticket sales and closing venues. This is a real pity since the Brazilian squad are rated quite highly within the Paralympic movement.
We have interviewed Michelle Weltman, events organiser the London Marathon on our upcoming podcast episode and she tells us which UK athletes we should be looking out for and cheering on from our sofas. In 2012 Channel 4 did a great job on presenting the Paralympics, hopefully their presentation in RIO this year will be at the same level at excellence.