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Richard Whitehead, MBE
Paralympic Gold 200m champion 

Richard Whitehead is a T42 Paralympic athlete. To simplify, a double leg above knee amputee, born without the lower half of both legs. Richards power comes from hip circumduction, utilising his glutes, hip flexors, quads, back and massive amounts of core strength. 
Richards main event is marathon running. He has run over 24 marathons on his high performance carbon composite 'blades', becoming the only straight leg double amputee to break a world record marathon in 2:42:52 !!
Frustrated that his 26.2 event was not part of the 2012 Paralympics as there was no category for leg amputees, he turned to sprinting as there was an option to try out at the 2011 IPC Athletic World Championships in NZ. Richard set a T42 200m record of 25.88 seconds, giving him just over 1 year to prepare for the 2012 London Olympics. 


T42 vs T43

A straight prosthetic leg provides massive competative disadvantages!   
Unlike T43s (below knee amputees like Oscar Pistorius), Richard has no flexion in his leg, which presents limitations in competitive ability. An above knee straight leg prosthetic is unable to bend at the knee, therefore it is impossible for Richard to crouch into starting race blocks. Considering that the initial power of a sprinter comes from accelerating out of the blocks, Richard starts in standing position (although looking quite the part looking like something out of X-men) thus needs extra time to create momentum in his legs. 

A straight leg Carbon Fibre Blade (referred to as the Cheetah blades by Ossur), does not work well round bends. Carbon composite will snap under excessive taution (Richard found that out the hard way in the 200 meter try outs at the Paralympic World Athletics Championships, in Christchurch NZ). Considering that a 200 meter race includes a 36.5 metre bend, it takes Richard a huge amount of core ability to negotiate the bend to finally level out onto the straightaway to power on.

 

For those who saw his Paralympic 200m T42 race London 2012 (my family and I were lucky enough to get tickets to see Richard run at the olympic stadium,) being aware of his straight leg start and a 36.5 meter bend in the track, we knew he was never destined to leave the blocks in the lead, nor with much momentum either, however what we couldn't believe was the second half of the race. Once he negotiated the bend and got onto the final straightaway, Richard got his balance, found his grip, dug in and took off!
Never in our lives have we been in an environment where such a crowd lifted once Richard started building more and more momentum.

Cometh the hour, cometh the man! One of Richards personal favourite quotes ( I recall he has in inscribed across his forearm as a tattoo!)      


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