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Firm plays part in Paralympics joy
A RINGWOOD firm is celebrating Paralympics success, after its expert help was called on to help sportsmen and women who brought glory to their countries.
Dorset Orthopaedic staff worked with many of the disabled athletes and sailors, providing one-off prosthetics and orthotics to help them perform at their best.
The firm’s founder Bob Watts became a prosthetist to the British Paralympics team in 1992 through his work with German prosthetics company Ottobock.
Now the 2012 Paralympics have taken the world by storm, with Team GB smashing their targets and leaving with 120 medals including 34 gold.
For one of his Ringwood-based prosthetists Matt Hughes, 34, this was his first Paralympics. He stayed at the sailing village in Weymouth for the first week of the Games, as one of Ottobock’s volunteers.
Matt, pictured, said: “It was very inspiring, brilliant.
“The best way I can describe it was that the atmosphere was bubbling over with positivity – everyone was really positive, really enthusiastic.
“All the volunteers were fantastic.”
Mr Hughes was carrying out “running repairs” for sailors from all over the world, including the gold-winning Australian Skud 18 duo Dan Fitzgibbon and Liesl Tesch.
Mr Hughes joined Dorset Orthopaedic straight from his prosthetics and orthotics degree course in Salford in 2001.
He said: “We carried out all sorts of repairs, from wheelchair repairs to mending straps and altering sockets.
“Sailors don’t put a huge amount of pressure on their prostheses so we were helping more to enable them to get around the village.
“It was an amazing experience – I’d recommend it to anyone.”
He added: “I also had the chance to visit the site in Stratford, and the noise in the stadium was something like I’d never heard before.”
Sailor Stephen Thomas, who lost his lower legs through meningitis, had special sailing legs made by the firm. The metal does not corrode in the salt water. He was on the Sonar team who were in third place until earning a four-point penalty on the penultimate day for cleaning the keel. There was no sailing on the last day because there was no wind, which meant they stayed in fifth place.
Swimmer Suzie Rogers won bronze in the 100m freestyle and in the 4x100m relay, with limbs made at Dorset orthopaedic.
She is a below elbow and through knee amputee who has been coming to Ringwood for her limbs since 2005.
American model Aimee Mullins, who was chef de mission for the American team in Stratford, had special silicone for her legs made in Ringwood.
And for shooter Ben Jesson it was his first international contest since he qualified in May. He wears silicone ankle support orthoses for drop-foot due to Charcot Marie Tooth disease (CMT).
Five Live presenter Marc Woods was a Paralympic swimmer, winning five golds. His below knee prosthesis is made in Ringwood.
Finally, Rob Richardson, who scooped eighth place overall in the volleyball, also gets his limbs from Dorset Orthopaedic. Eighth was some achievement – last time the UK fielded a Paralympic volleyball team it came 51st in the table.