How the evolution of equipment such as the wheelchair and running blades changed the shape of Paralympic sport. Read the stories from athletes about their experiences and how technology has supported their sporting ambitions.

Evolution of running blades

The Cheetah running blade, manufactured by Ossur, in the starting block on an athletics race track

Image ©Getty Images

Blades are prosthetic lower limbs, used by amputee runners. The first running blade was designed by American inventor, Van Phillips, in the 1970s. Learn more about running blades

Evolution of sports wheelchairs

Watch our interactive about the evolution of the sports wheelchair here Find out more about the history of the sports wheelchair by reading PhD researcher, Sam Brady's blog here

Joan Newton's memories of early wheelchairs

A group of people playing wheelchair hockey outside Stoke Mandeville in the 1940s

Image ©NSIC

I remember the very earliest self-propelled carts that the patients were using at Stoke Mandeville, pre-cursors to wheelchairs that you could get yourself about in. They were just going out of use when I started at Stoke in 1948. We called them ‘Push-Pulls’; they were a low four-wheeled cart that a patient could sit themselves in and they had two levers each side which they would move backwards and forwards to propel themselves along. 

Read more about Joan's memories

Jayant Mistry

Jayant Mistry playing professional wheelchair tennis in the 1990s.

In the old days when I first starting playing, you only ever played in one wheelchair. So to go from that, to when in the early 90s people started having two wheelchairs and then started having more camber on the chair, and then having a wheel on the back...I feel very fortunate that I was kind of part of the evolution of the sport as well. 

Read more of Jayant's story

Peter Caruthers

A Bromakin racing wheelchair in action on the track

One of the distinctive things about sports wheelchairs is that so many of the companies were originated by former wheelchair athletes. Like myself, many of these guys had had a previous career in engineering or something similar before their accident and it was a natural way to go to put these skills into improving your subsequent quality of life, particularly if you took up wheelchair sport. 

Read more of Peter's story