Amputee Athletes & the Olympics

2012 Olympic Blade Runner Gives Boost to Other Amputee Athletes with Olympic Dreams

The Games of the XXXI Olympiad, also known as the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, officially open Friday, August 5, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  During the last Summer Olympics held in London in 2012, one of the best told stories was that of Oscar Pistorius, an amputee runner from South Africa.

Pistorius became the first amputee runner to compete in the Olympic Games.  He ran the 400 meter race and the 4 x 400 meter relay.  Although he did not win an Olympic medal, he competed with some of the world’s fastest able-bodied runners and made huge strides in the quest for amputee athletes to compete in the Olympics.

His feat garnered him much international attention throughout the Olympic Games, with many media outlets referring to him as the Blade Runner.  Sadly, upon his return to South Africa, Pistorius gained media attention again when he was arrested, tried and found guilty for shooting and killing South African model Reeva Steenkamp.  Despite the unfortunate turn of events, there is no doubt that Pistorius made a major impact on athletics and the Olympics.

Although, disabled athletes competing at the Olympic level is nothing new (see Infographic), Pistorius had to overcome hurdles to be able to compete with his prosthetics.  He first had to undergo trials to prove that his prosthetics did not give him an advantage over able-bodied runners.  Initial tests said that there was a decided advantage to running on his carbon fiber running prosthetics.  However, after an appeal, it was determined that not enough factors had been tested and found that there was no decided advantage.  Missing the Olympic team in 2008, Pistorius was named to the 2012 South African Olympic team where he made history as the first double amputee runner to compete in the Olympic Games.

Paving the way for future Olympians, Pistorius now makes way for Germany’s Markus Rehm.  Rehm is a single amputee long jumper who uses a similar blade to compete and won the Gold Medal at the 2012 Paralympic Games.  Rehm had been hoping to become the second athlete with a prosthesis to compete in an Olympics.  Unfortunately for Rehm, he has fallen short for 2016.  IAAF rules state that the prosthesis does not give an athlete an advantage.  And so far, the evidence is not in his favor.  Not giving up, Rehm plans to work with the IAAF on a rule change that would allow him to compete.

The Olympic motto is Faster, Higher, Stronger.  Amputee athletes with Olympics dreams certainly live up to this motto in every way.

Disabled Olympians who competed in Olympic Games  (from http://www.topendsports.com)

George Eyser (1904)

American gymnast George Eyser won three gold medals for the vault, parallel bars and rope climbing in 1904, competing wearing a wooden leg. He also won two silvers and one bronze. He lost his leg when he was a kid in a train accident. He was the only person with an artificial leg to have competed at the Olympic Games until swimmer Natalie du Toit in Beijing 2008.

Carlo Orlandi (1928)

Carlo Orlandi was an Italian boxer who competed in the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam, and was also a deaf-mute. He won the gold medal in the lightweight class.

Donald Gollan (1928)

UK rower Donald Gollan won a silver medal as a member of the rowing eights in 1928. He was deaf and mute.

Oliver Halassy (1928, 1932, 1936)

The Hungarian Oliver Halassy won silver in water polo at the 1928 Games and gold in 1932 and 1936. He won despite missing his left leg that had been amputated below the knee following a childhood streetcar accident.

Károly Takács (1948, 1952, 1956)

Hungarian shooter Károly Takács was a world-class pistol shooter, though was prevented from taking part at the 1936 Olympics because of his low military rank. He was on target to compete in 1940, but during army training in 1938 his right hand (and shooting hand) was badly injured when a faulty grenade exploded. Undaunted, he started training with his left hand, and won the national championship the following year. He had to wait until 1948 for the Olympics to resume, where he won the gold medal in the 25m rapid fire pistol, then repeated that effort in 1952.

 Lis Hartel (1952, 1956)

Danish equestrian athlete Lis Hartel was paralysed below the knees as a result of polio and required assistance on and off her horse. She became the first woman in the equestrian sports to win an Olympic medal when she won silver medals at the 1952 and 1956 Summer Olympics in dressage.

Harold V. Connolly (1956, 1960, 1964, 1968)

US athlete Connolly won the gold medal at the 1956 Olympic Games in hammer throwing which was remarkable as he had Erbs Palsy, which meant the his deformed left arm was 4.5 inches shorter than his right arm, and his left hand was two-thirds smaller than his right hand. He also finishing eighth in 1960, sixth in 1964 and did not qualifying for the final in 1968.

Ildikó Újlaky-Rejtő (1960, 1964, 1968, 1972, 1976)

Deaf Hungarian female fencer Ildikó Újlaky-Rejtő won two individual medals (a gold and a bronze) and five team medals during an Olympic career spanning from 1960 until 1976.

Jeffrey Float (1984)

Jeffrey Float was a swimmer who represented the USA at the 1984 Olympics. He was 90% deaf in his right ear and 65% in his left. He won a gold medal in the 4x200m freestyle and finished fourth in the 200m individual freestyle. He had also qualified for the 1980 Moscow Olympic Swimming Team which was boycotted by the US.

Neroli Fairhall (1984)

New Zealand archer Neroli Fairhall was the first athlete to compete in both the Paralympics (1980) and Olympic Games (1984). She was paralysed from the waist down and competed in a wheelchair.

Sonia Vettenburg (1992)

Previously winning medals at the 1984 and 1988 Paralympic Games, Belgium Shooter Vettenburg finished 37th at the Barcelona Olympic Games in the women’s 10 meter air pistol.

Paola Fantato (1996)

Italian archer Paola Fantato also competed in both the Paralympics and Olympic Games. She was born with polio. She had a very successful paralympic career from 1988 to 2004, though made just the one appearance at the Olympic Games, in 1996.

Italian archer Paola Fantato was the first athlete to compete in the Olympics and 0aralympics in the same year, when she took part in both Games at Atlanta in 1996. Fantato had been afflicted with polio when she was eight and was confined to a wheelchair. At Atlanta she placed 54th in the women’s individual competition in the Olympics but took a bronze medal in women’s individual and a gold in women’s team at the 0aralympics She took part in five consecutive 0aralympics, winning a total of eight medals, including five gold.

Terence Parkin (2000, 2004)

Deaf South African swimmer Terence Parkin won silver in the 200m breaststroke at the Sydney 2000 Olympics, and also competed at the 2004 Games in Athens.

Marla Runyan (2000, 2004)

Visually impaired runner Marla Runyan from the USA (she is legally blind) competed at the 1992 and 1996 Paralympics, and then at the 2000 and 2004 Olympic Games. In Sydney 2000 she finished eighth in the 1,500m.

Frank Bartolillo (2004)

Australian Frank Bartolillo is profoundly deaf, and competed in fencing at the Athens 2004 Olympics. He competed in the individual foil event. He claimed that being deaf was an advantage as it enabled him to better concentrate.

Natalie du Toit (2008)

In 2008, South African amputee Natalie du Toit competed in the open water 10km swim, in which she came 16th. Her left leg was amputated at the knee after she was hit by a car when she was 17. She swims without the aid of a prosthetic limb. She carried the flag at the 2008 Summer Olympics opening ceremony, making her the first athlete to carry a flag in both Olympics and Paralympics in a single year.

Natalia Partyka (2008, 2012)

Polish table tennis player Natalia Partyka was one of two athetes to compete at the 2008 Summer Paralympics and Olympics in Beijing (the other was Natalie du Toit). Partyka was born without a right hand and forearm.

Im Dong-Hyun (2004, 2008, 2012)

South Korean archer Im Dong-Hyun has 20/200 vision in his left eye and 20/100 vision in his right eye, meaning he is legally blind in his left eye. He won Olympic gold in the team competition in 2004 and 2008, and bronze in 2012.

David Smith (2012)

David Smith is part of the USA volleyball team at the 2012 London Olympics. Smith has been deaf since birth, having 80-90% hearing loss, and has worn hearing aids since he was three years old.

Chris Colwill (2008, 2012)

Chris Colwill, who has a 65% hearing loss, is a diver from the USA. Colwill is not able to wear his hearing aid when he dives, so he can’t hear the whistle that signals to the divers when they can go. Therefore the referees nod to him in addition to the whistle so that he can recognize the signal. He says it can be an advantage not to be able to hear during competitions because then he isn’t distracted by noises.

Oscar Pistorius (2012)

South African Oscar Pistorius (aka the ‘Blade Runner’), became the first double amputee to take part in both the Olympics and Paralympics. He competed in the 400m and 4 x 400 m relay races at the 2012 Olympics, running on his carbon fiber prosthetic legs. He had both legs amputated below the knee when he was 11 months old, after being born without fibulas and with deformities of his feet.

Melissa ‘Milly’ Tapper

In Rio 2016, 26-year-old table tennis player Melissa ‘Milly’ Tapper will become the first Australian athlete to compete in both the Olympics and Paralympics. She was born with nerve damage in her right arm, and competed at the London Paralympics.

 

New & Improved Soft-Sock®

 

Long time Knit-Rite customers already know all the benefits to our Prosthetic Sock-Sock®.  But, since we know that even great things can be improved upon, Knit-Rite has done just that.  After listening to customers and practitioners alike, and following a detailed research and development process, we have improved our Original Soft-Sock® to an even better design!

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We know that comfort is key, so one of the improvements made to the Soft-Sock® is a fully non-roll top.  The new top lays flat against the skin and doesn’t roll, eliminating the annoying bunching that could occur with the original or other prosthetic socks.

The other great addition to the Soft-Sock® is a reinforced distal hole option.  The “Eye-Hole” is knit into the sock.  The new reinforced feature allows the eye-hole to sit in the proper position without stretching and moving out of place on the leg.  This feature is patent-pending.

The new Soft-Sock® contains all the other features of the original Soft-Sock®.  The soft and cuddly material feels wonderful next to the skin.  The toe is rounded and 3-dimensional providing better comfort.  The antimicrobial nature prevents odors, while high-tech fibers wick moisture away from the skin.  The sock stretches and recovers to help it conform to the limb.

Like the original, the new Soft-Sock® is available in many options.  These include with and without the eye-hole; in original white CoolMax® material or grey X-Static®; a multitude of sizes for both adults and children; and lightweight, 3-Ply, 5-Ply and 6-Ply weights.

Therafirm-Sponsored Marathoner Wins Santa Barbara Race

On November 7, 2015, 36-year-old Moninda Marube won the Santa Barbara Veteran’s Day Half Marathon in Santa Barbara, California for the fourth time with a time of one hour, eight minutes and 41 seconds.  The event was the culmination of Moninda’s 3,700-mile journey that began last July in Auburn, Maine.

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Moninda grew up in Kenya.  A lack of steady money and political violence contributed to a difficult life as a youth.  But, his talent for running allowed him a way out, and his journey landed him in the United States.

In the U.S., Moninda began training, but ran into financial difficulties.  To help out, he began training with other Kenyan runners under a manager.  It was with this manager that Moninda fell victim to human trafficking.  The manager would keep winnings from the races the Kenyans ran, leaving little for living expenses.  Moninda lived in a house infested with bedbugs with no air conditioning and very little food.  Finally in 2012, Moninda met Dan Campbell, the technical director of the Santa Barbara Half Marathon.  He ran the Marathon and broke the course record.  Campbell helped him get out of his situation and relocate to Auburn, Maine, where life is finally good.

Becoming involved with the Auburn, Maine Police Athletic/Activities League (PAL) and motivated to help others, he began The Moninda Movement to help bring awareness of human trafficking.  The Moninda Movement consisted of Moninda’s one-man goal of running 3,700 miles in four months and finishing with the Santa Barbara Veteran’s Day Half Marathon. This amounted to running roughly 30 miles per day, 6 days a week.

Early into his journey, The Moninda Movement gained two sponsors – Bedard Pharmacy and Medical Supplies located in central Maine, and Therafirm, a compression hosiery manufacturer based in Hamlet, North Carolina with corporate offices in Kansas City, Kansas.

Bedard Pharmacy and Medical Supplies has a long history of serving its local community.  As a small, family-owned and operated business headquartered in Auburn, Maine, they are a company that cares about their customers like family. Providing the community with the best quality medical supplies and equipment available is how they strive to inspire and empower individuals to take life’s challenges as they come, and to live life on their terms. They are also proud to be one of the last independent pharmacies in the state of Maine.

Moninda’s mission was a perfect fit for Therafirm.  The U.S. manufacturer produces true gradient compression socks and hosiery including a line of athletic compression socks and leg and arm sleeves.  Gradient compression in athletic socks and sleeves feature compression that is greatest at the ankle and gradually decreases toward the top of the stocking to help increase energy for endurance, better performance and reduces muscle fatigue and recovery times.  But, equally important, Therafirm, as well as parent company Knit-Rite, Inc., holds improving lives as its mission, not only in the products it makes, but also in the many causes it supports locally and beyond.

The co-sponsorship included Therafirm-branded compression socks and sleeves and Moninda’s athletic apparel.  Custom screen printing on Moninda’s apparel advertised The Moninda Movement’s message.  Bedard and Therafirm also donated a portion of the proceeds from retail sales of Therafirm’s athletic compression products over an eight-month period to Moninda’s foundation in support of ending human trafficking.

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Originally, The Moninda Movement’s 3,700 miles was to be a cross-country journey where Moninda would run from Auburn, Maine to Santa Barbara, California stopping in several cities along the way.  Unfortunately, the logistics of getting his team of supporters through each leg of the journey proved difficult and the cross-country run had to be scrapped.  Moninda did not let the setback discourage him from his goals, however.  He continued to run his 30 miles each day from his home in Auburn, Maine making sure he reached the 3,700 miles it would have taken him to run from Maine to California.

Moninda finished his 3,700 mile run in time to catch a flight to Santa Barbara to run in the Santa Barbara Veteran’s Day Half Marathon – a race that he won for the record-breaking 4th straight year.

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Memorial Day Facts

Field of Flags at sunset, Lubbock TX

Memorial Day is the unofficial start to summer.  The three-day weekend is chalk full of barbecues, parades, super sales and pool and water park openings.  But, what is it, truly, that we are celebrating?  Many people don’t know that the day is set aside for remembering and memorializing American servicemen and women that have been killed in American wars.  But, there is so much more to the story.  Here are several facts about Memorial Day you may not know:

  1. Civil War origins – The late spring remembrance to American war dead began in the aftermath of the Civil War. Originally called Decoration Day, it was an informal commemoration of the roughly 620,000 soldiers killed during the Civil War.
  2. Freed American slaves organized earliest commemorations – On May 1, 1865, black US soldiers, including the Massachusetts 54th Infantry, gathered in Charleston, South Carolina at a new burial for Union dead. They distributed flowers and sang hymns.
  3. Official holiday founded in May 1868 – General John A. Logan, who was commander of a Union veterans’ group called the Grand Army of the Republic, decreed that May 30 would become a nationwide day of commemoration.
  4. Did not become a federal holiday until 1971 – After General Logan decreed a national day in 1868, more than 27 states adopted some form of commemoration. By 1890, every state had adopted it, but the day still only recognized Civil War dead.  After our entry into World War I, the holiday was expanded to include those killed in all wars.  But it wasn’t until 1971, when the U.S. was 6 years deep into the Vietnam War, for Memorial Day became the federal holiday set aside on the last Monday of May that we know it as now.
  5. Many have lobbied for it to return to May 30 – Many Veterans groups that American do not use the day for its intended purpose, but instead associate it with the first long weekend of the summer. They argue that returning the commemoration back to May 30, regardless of the day of the week would return the significance to honoring war dead.
  6. Memorial Day traditions and practices – On Memorial Day, the American flag should be hung at half-staff until 12:00 noon, and then raised to the top. In 2000 Congress passed a resolution that suggested Americans should pause at 3:00 pm local time to offer a National Moment of Remembrance.
  7. Who is included in a Federal Holiday – A Federal holiday, like Memorial Day, technically only applies to Federal employees and those in the District of Columbia. However, many of the 11 federal holidays, Memorial Day included, are observed by all 50 states and many businesses.

This Memorial Day, as you’re having barbecues and parades, pause for a few moments to remember those American servicemen and women who made the ultimate sacrifice. Happy Memorial Day from our team and Knit-Rite and Therafirm.

Limb Loss Awareness Month

April is Limb Loss Awareness Month.  There are roughly 1.7 million people in the United States living with limb loss.  No one ever expects to lose a limb, but still there are 507 people every day who lose limbs.  Approximately 1,558 military personnel have lost a limb as a result of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  This is usually what comes to mind when thinking of limb loss, but the loss of a limb may be due to vascular diseases, including diabetes and peripheral arterial disease, traumas or cancer.

The statistics can be staggering to imagine, but due to significant advancements in the quality of prosthetic limbs, it may be difficult to even determine that someone you meet has even lost a limb.  Many amputees are able to have careers and participate in activities that were once thought difficult or impossible.

They can run.

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They can dance.

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They can fight fires.

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All with the help of well-made and well-fitting prosthetics.  A good, comfortable fit is key to an amputee’s mobility, which is why our team at Knit-Rite makes the prosthetic socks that we do.  It is our mission to improve the quality of life for amputees and others through our products.  Every day our team works, not only to make these products, but to make improvements upon them.

Today and all days, we’d like to send a big high-five to all the 1.7 million Americans who are living with limb loss.

Just in Time for Spring – EASE Sheer!!

Just in time for spring, Therafirm has released its brand new line – Sheer Ease!  This exciting addition to the already popular Ease line is sure to turn heads.

Like Ease and Core-Spun products, Sheer Ease garments are made with ultra-stretchy yarns making them easier to put on and more comfortable to wear.  And also like Ease and Core-Spun, Sheer Ease hosiery products are the highest quality gradient compression, but the beautiful and comfortable sheer fabrics give the impression of everyday sheer hosiery.

Sheer Ease garments are very durable and will hold well to repeated wear, resisting many of the rips and snags common to other sheer hosiery.  And contributing to exceptional comfort, the super soft and breathable material is moisture wicking helping to keep you cool and comfortable.  Sheer Ease’s soft, knit-in bands on the knee highs stay in place while providing non-binding comfort.  The knit-in pantyhose waistbands stay in place and prevent rolling, while the silicone band on the thigh highs keep them comfortably in place.

Like all Therafirm products, Sheer Ease features true gradient compression, which is designed to improve blood flow.  Gradient compression delivers a controlled amount of pressure which is greatest at the ankle of the garment and gradually decreases toward the top.  Sheer Ease premium gradient compression garments are designed to help promote better circulation and help control swelling, leg fatigue, mild to moderate varicose veins, leg discomfort, edema and DVT.

Sheer Ease is available in styles including open and close toe knee high, thigh highs and pantyhose in three compression levels – mild (15-20 mmHg), moderate (20-30 mmHg) and firm (30-40 mmHg).  Mild and moderate closed toe styles are available in Black, Natural, Sand, Bronze, Coal, Cocoa and Navy.  All open toe styles and firm compression level products are available in Black, Natural and Sand.

Ease Sheer is here.  Be one of the first to experience this beautiful and comfortable high quality compression hosiery.  Your legs will thank you.

 

** Contraindications: Compression products should not be worn and is contraindicated if you have any of the following conditions: severe arterial insufficiency, cutaneous infections, acute dermatitis, wet dermatosis, uncontrolled congestive heart failure, skin irritations, or allergies to dyes.

One of Knit-Rite’s Own Retires

One of the first things you think about when you hear “Knit-Rite” is family.  The togetherness and comradery felt within the walls is unique to the workplace.  That’s why when one of its leaders retires it is truly bittersweet.  You’re happy for their accomplishments, but sad to lose their daily contributions.

Lucky for Knit-Rite that we’ll still get to see Ron Hercules from time to time.  But alas, last month he officially retired and got to celebrate his long career with his Knit-Rite family at a big family lunch!

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The party started with a celebratory line of employees cheering and welcoming Ron and his family, which was followed by a delicious barbecue lunch from Kansas City favorite Gates Barbecue.  After lunch Knit-Rite employees showered Ron with heartfelt speeches, stories and gifts.

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So, as Ron moves on to a new adventure in his life, he’ll carry with him his Knit-Rite family.  And the Knit-Rite family will carry on with the knowledge and wisdom that Ron has contributed throughout the years.  That’s what families do.

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