New snowboard bindings fuel amputee's Paralympic hopes

CASTLEFORD, England (Reuters) - A former British army soldier who lost both his legs in a bomb explosion in Northern Ireland is hoping to snowboard in the 2022 Winter Paralympic Games in China thanks to new 3D-printed bindings which can absorb shock and give him greater speed.

Darren Swift, 53, who lost his legs above the knee, worked with the Bristol-based Centre for Modelling Simulation (CFMS), a not-for-profit digital engineering specialist to develop the bindings, made from a material blending nylon and fibreglass.

Swift realised the importance of being able to use the knees to absorb shock in snowboarding, and wanted to find a solution for him and other double above the knee (DAK) amputees.

"[The binding] has become effectively a knee. It's not as good as a knee, a human knee, but it does enough to take some of the impact out of what we are feeling on the ice," he said.

"These take out some of the slams... so (it's) absolutely revolutionised what we are doing."

Swift hopes the new bindings will encourage the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) to create a new category for DAKs competitors.

"With these I am hoping I can shave those three seconds off, and other DAK snowboarders can do the same, and we can get this category ...and get to the next Paralympics in China in 2022."

(Reporting by Stuart McDill, Editing by Alexandra Hudson and Jane Merriman)

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