German Paralympic athlete Martin Fleig will compete in Sochi using specially engineered ski-sled

High-performance sled to be tested at Paralympics

Paralympian Martin Fleig is going to compete in Sochi, taking advantage of a biomechanically optimised sled developed by German engineers.

Part of the Snowstorm research project, the ski sled has been designed to precisely fit the needs of the multiple German champion in biathlon and cross-country skiing. 

When developing the sled, researchers at the MicroTribology Center of the Karslruhe Institute of Technology and the Fraunhofer Institute for Mechanics of Materials performed detailed biomechanical analyses to determine the best position of the seat to enable the athlete to optimally use his power.

The sled for the 24-year-old athlete, who was born with a severe walking disability, has been designed using 3D scanners and computer-aided design.

“Adaptation of the seat to the body is very important to success. If the sled is part of the body, a maximum force flow and driving comfort result,” said Professor Matthias Scherge, head of the MicroTribology Center. “For biathlon in particular, where the athlete lies down for shooting with a complex rotation movement and powerfully rises up to the seating position again, the sled has to be light and stable at the same time.”

To achieve the best possible performance, the researchers have used anti-friction technology to smoothen out the interface between the snow and the skis. As the skis mounted to the sled do not allow for any skating movements, this interaction is crucial for maximum speed on the track.

Prior to the games, the Snowstorm researchers collected a vast amount of data about characteristics of the snow, track, and weather in Sochi. The models based on this data will be used to support the Nordic Skiing Paralympics team in wax selection, ski polishing, and ski preparation for the competition.

The researchers believe the knowledge gathered as part of the Snowstorm project could eventually be used in recreational sports, enabling development of simpler and more comfortable ski sleds.

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