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Paralympic athletes to use Utah-made prosthetics to break world records

Posted at 9:36 PM, Aug 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-25 21:47:30-04

WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah -- A Utah man is headed to the Paralympics in Tokyo to represent Salt Lake City and his company in supporting athletes from around the globe.

Ottobock, the world's largest manufacturer of prosthetics with a facility in Salt Lake City, is playing a huge role in the Paralympics -- which officially kicked off Tuesday.

Employees filled the fabrication plant Monday, each working to help create and build life-changing technology. Some employees filled molds with silicone for custom prosthetic liners. Others drilled and smoothed out the finishing touches on carbon fiber prosthetic feet.

Research and Development Prosthetist Jeff Waldmuller explained that they are constantly improving their mobility devices, innovating the technology in new ways.

Over the next couple of weeks, their products will be put to the test by the best of the best.

He pointed to a shelf that housed a stack of carbon fiber, shaped like running feet. He said the running blades will likely be sent to Tokyo.

“It’s a carbon fiber sprinter foot that you’ll see all the world’s greatest record-breaking Paralympians running on," Waldmuller said.

These athletes, he explained, are at their peak performance and pushing their components to peak performance. That means mobility devices are likely to break during the intense competitions.

That's where Waldmuller and Ottobock will come in, making sure the athletes stay on their game. Waldmuller will help athletes with prosthetic care, so they can continue competing.

He said if something breaks or there are issues, he will make repairs or fabricate an entire prosthesis.

"I’ll be spending most days on the track and field and the main big stadium, servicing those running prostheses," he said.

He understands first-hand how important it is to make sure a prosthetic is in tip-top shape.

"About 12 years ago, I lost my limb in a motorcycle accident with a semi-truck," Waldmuller said. "And that turned me into a career path of getting into prosthetics. But also, I competed as an athlete and I was very active beforehand, and I wanted to continue that level of activity."

Today, Waldmuller is an adaptive athlete and loves to mountain bike. While mountain biking is not (yet) a Paralympic sport, Waldmuller will get the chance to see adaptive athletes like him push the boundaries and break new world records.

He'll know that Ottobock and the work done here in Utah was part of making that happen.

"We can help them to be able to compete at their absolute best," he said of the Paralympic athletes.

Waldmuller takes off for Tokyo Wednesday and will spend two weeks there.

He said he hopes that when watching the Paralympics, people see inspiration and drive and know that it's possible to overcome adversities.

"I hope people see that what we do here locally is affecting the entire world," he said, "and feel some level of pride in where we live and what we do in Utah."