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Cutting Edge Sports Technology to Help Former Para-Athlete Row Solo across the Atlantic
Published: 11th April 2018, 9:02am
Franky Mulloy, Research Fellow in Biomechanics and Former Para-Athlete Kelda Wood A former British para-athlete is working with sports scientists to develop cutting edge bio-mechanical technology to enable her to become the first adaptive female to row solo across the Atlantic.

Kelda Wood suffered a life changing injury in 2002 which left her with a fused left ankle. She established the charity Climbing Out and, after representing Team GB in the 2015 World Championships in ParaCanoe, was part of the first disabled team to climb the seven summits: the highest mountains in all seven continents, before conquering both the North and South Poles.

She has now taken on a new sporting challenge of epic proportions: to row solo across the Atlantic. In preparation she has enlisted the support of biomechanics specialists from the School of Sport and Exercise Science at the University of Lincoln to develop the equipment she will need for the voyage.  The work will involve the expert use of motion capture technology at the University’s Human Performance Centre to inform the design of a specially adapted footplate in her boat.

In March 2018, Kelda visited the University to undergo a series of biomechanical assessments in the Human Performance Centre’s state-of-the-art Motion Capture Lab. The facility was used to examine the extent to which Kelda is able to move her ankle while rowing and how the rest of her body compensates for the limited range of motion.

The data collected will now be used to inform boat modifications which will be made by multiple world record holder Leven Brown in Scotland to create a specially adapted footplate for Kelda’s quest to row unaided for more than 3,000 nautical miles across the world’s second largest ocean.

Kelda Wood, who is from Shropshire, said: “I compensate for my leg all the time, but I’m not aware of what I’m doing and what impact that has on my body. What this technology at the University is doing is allowing us to look at what range I have got, so when we’re adapting the footplate, we can see where we need it to rotate and where we need it to stop - without that technology we wouldn’t be able to do that.

“In some cases, my ankle is better than we thought, which has given me confidence and actually where it’s not, we can start to adapt around it without guess work – because guess work in the middle of the Atlantic just isn’t an option! It’s been incredible to see the process develop and the work with the University of Lincoln will be absolutely crucial in allowing me to take on this challenge.”

Franky Mulloy, Research Fellow in Biomechanics at the School of Sport and Exercise Science, said “As a discipline, and a department, it’s great to be able to work with Kelda on a project with such fantastic real world impact. Not only in the row itself, but also in raising awareness for others who have experienced mental and physical trauma. This technology is incredibly useful in assessing the human-equipment interaction to inform design”

Kelda’s ‘Row to Raise’ challenge aims to raise awareness for young people with life changing injuries and illnesses and she will dedicate each day of the row to a different young person. The final adaptations are expected to be completed in the coming months before Kelda flies to the Canary Islands in the autumn to begin the final stages of her training.

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