Running with an exosuit

Paralympic champ Ridzuan wearing the exoskeleton that helps boost his performance. On the right is the inventor of the product, Dolcetti

The story of Mohd Ridzuan Mohd Puzi is one of triumph. Diagnosed with cerebral palsy at the age of one, Ridzuan, a van-driver’s son, has gone from flipping burgers in the sleepy border town of Padang Besar in Perlis to winning the nation’s first-ever gold medal at the Paralympics in Rio last year.

The 29-year-old clocked 12.07 seconds on the men’s T36 (cerebral palsy) 100m dash, breaking the record of 12.25 seconds held by Ukraine’s Roman Pavlyk since 2008.

He is no stranger to ­technology – Ridzuan uses the same exoskeleton used by badminton champion Datuk Lee Chong Wei, squash queen Datuk Nicol David and motorcycle racer Zulfahmi Khairuddin.

Ridzuan wearing the exoskeleton during his training.
Ridzuan wearing the exoskeleton during his training.

Known as Lila Exogen, it was invented by Joe Dolcetti, the chief executive officer of Sportboleh. Dolcetti claims that Lila Exogen has a corrective influence on Ridzuan’s muscles and joints that have been affected by cerebral palsy.

“We can put an extra 1.5kg of weights on him in strategic places and it makes his muscles work harder,” he says.

When used for the long term, it will help the athlete become stronger in their weak areas, he says. It also has an immediate effect – after just running a couple of rounds with the weights, an athlete can be faster by 0.2 to 0.4 seconds when he runs without the weights.

“His muscles still act like they are carrying the heavier load and will contract much stronger, more powerful and faster,” says Dolcetti.

A bio-sensor line is currently being developed with a joint partnership with AUT Millenium Institute with AUT Sport Performance Research Institute of New Zealand which will feature movement modelling and skill analysis.

“It will allow us to capture detailed ­analysis of Ridzuan’s strengths and weaknesses, while running,” he says. It’s expected to be available in mid-2017.

In the meantime, Ridzuan is busy getting ready to defend his gold medal at the IPC World Athletics Championships in London in July 2017.

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