LONDON, England (AP) — Oscar Pistorius made history last month when he became the first double-amputee to compete at the Olympics.
While the South African "Blade Runner" didn't make the medals podium, it's probably only a matter of time before Pistorius or another disabled runner triumphs.
Many experts predict Paralympians soon will be outperforming their able-bodied counterparts, thanks in part to future improvements in prosthetics.
"We're already at the era where prosthetics can outstrip human performance," said David James of the Centre for Sports Engineering Research at Sheffield Hallam University.
"With the developments being made in things like powered knees and ankle joints, athletes will soon be flying down the track.
"It's possible Paralympic athletes could one day run faster than Usain Bolt."
Bryce Dyer, an engineering design expert focusing on elite sport at Bournemouth University, said the breakthrough made by Pistorius will spur other disabled athletes to go even further, perhaps using more advanced prosthetics. Dyer added that it's up to sports federations to draw the line on where prosthetics enhance performance.
"The technology will only improve," he said.
The blades currently being used don't give Paralympic runners the same amount of energy able-bodied runners get from their legs — the athletes are powered only by their hamstrings or hip flexor muscles, as opposed to the additional power a runner gets from the thigh, calf and ankle.
"In the future, you might see nanotube technology that could produce the same structure as in a biological leg and give you the same amount of energy," said Philippa Oldham, head of manufacturing at the Institute of Mechanical Engineers. Oldham added that carbon fibre blades like the ones used by Pistorius don't offer any net advantage.
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