The Royal Dutch Lawn Tennis Association (KNLTB) can take the next step in developing more effective propulsion of the sports wheelchair used by wheelchair tennis players. It was announced at the Sportinnovator XL event that the KNLTB had won the Sportinnovator Prize for 2017.
A boost for wheelchair tennis
Aldo Hoekstra, an embedded scientist at the KNLTB, is delighted with the prize. ‘It's fantastic!’ he exclaims.
This provides an extra boost for wheelchair tennis. We have been given the opportunity to finish what we started.
The amount won by the KNLTB will enable it to develop its existing prototype push rims into a final product. The aim of the new sports wheelchair is to help wheelchair tennis players perform even better during the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo. ‘Last year,’ Hoekstra explains,
we moved on from a concept to a prototype. Over the next one and a half years, we can continue developing this prototype to create a final product. To do so, we are collaborating with Mifa, a company based in Venlo, who were the developers of Mg Wheels and also our partners during our previous project.
Working together with top-class Olympic athletes
At an earlier stage of the project, the development of the new push rims received assistance from the Dutch wheelchair tennis players, including Jiske Griffioen, a gold medallist at the Paralympics in Rio. The concept is based on a new shape of rim and experiments were also conducted with different materials and textures. This is an area in which Mifa has a great deal of expertise. We will continue to develop this together with the top athletes going to Tokyo and also conduct tests together with the talent group, Hoekstra continues. The tests will be carried out on Mg Wheels, another innovation developed by Mifa. We may also be able to supply customized products where possible.
Recreational sports and everyday use
Hoekstra sees many opportunities if the modifications to the wheelchair are actually implemented.
This innovation is also important for society. In addition to being relevant for top-class sport, I think this development could also be used for recreational sports. This modification may also improve those wheelchairs used for general everyday mobility. The purpose of this development is to ensure that wheelchairs can be moved about more easily.
Continuing to innovate
Hoekstra and his associates draw inspiration from developments being made abroad.
Foreign players are also experimenting with sitting positions and other modifications to the seat. This is one of the reasons why we know that we cannot stand still. We have to keep on innovating to enable our athletes to compete for more medals in Tokyo 2020.