With all the criticism surrounding VAR in football at the moment, it is important to take a moment to consider the true benefits of technology in sport. Adam Gorlitsky is the perfect example of this, a man who is paralysed from the waist down has been given the chance to walk again thanks to the ReWalk Personal 6.0 suit and now, he has broken the world record for a marathon while using one.
It took Gorlitsky 33 hours, 50 minutes and 23 seconds to complete the 26 miles and 385 yards, beating the previous record held by Britain's Simon Kindleysides by three hours. It was a remarkable feat of human achievement as he began the race on Thursday night before finishing on Saturday morning, going without sleep for the entire race.
Having been a track and field athlete for most of his high school years, Gorlitsky’s life changed when he fell asleep at the wheel, aged 19. The resulting car accident left him paralysed from the waist down. In 2015, he went to see his doctor who just happened to have an exoskeleton gathering dust in the corner, one of only 250 in the world.
That started a journey of epic proportions. His first attempt at completing a race was the Cooper River Bridge Run. He trained hard and eventually became the first paraplegic to complete the race with the help of an exoskeleton. He now has the number of steps it took, 17,932 to be exact, tattooed onto his right forearm.
Once he got bitten by the competitive bug, there was going to be no stopping him as he completed the Portland half-marathon in 2018, finishing the race in almost 20 hours. His first true test of super-endurance racing. Of course, you cannot have true competition with just one competitor so when Simon Kindkeysides became the first athlete to complete the London Marathon in an exoskeleton, Gorlitsky had a target to beat.
The Sportsman caught up with the previous record holder and Spirit of London award winner, who is looking to hit the 25-hour mark, and take his world record back this year.
“I’ve always wanted to do the London marathon even when I was able-bodied but never got round to it. I never thought in a million years I would get to walk it since becoming paralysed but it was a dream come true. I wanted to prove that anything is possible and no such thing as can’t,” said Kindkeysides.
The official time is still to be submitted to the Guinness World Records but the Brit is confident of going even faster this year after an issue with the suit held him up for several hours last time out.
“Any world record is there to be beaten but it’s just annoying as my official walking time was 27 hours 32 mins. Unfortunately, they had to take the time from the start line to finish line as I had a 6-hour wait when the suit broke. So I’m going to do the London marathon again this year to show I can do it in around 25 hours.”
These ReWalk suits have opened a world of possibilities for paraplegics and the technology involved is fascinating. Controlled using a watch that the user wears, with two sticks for balance, the suit senses your arm movements and moves your legs forward at the correct pace.
Andy Dolan, the Vice-President of Marketing at ReWalk spoke to The Sportsman about the accomplishments of both marathon walkers and the benefits of the ReWalk Personal 6.0 System:
“As far as our thoughts on their accomplishments – ReWalkers accomplish great things every day, whether it is finishing a marathon, walking across stage at a graduation, standing to hug a loved one or improving their overall health and well-being by using these devices to help get their bodies moving. While standing and walking are the visible benefits of using a ReWalk, those who use the device will likely describe the health-related benefits they experience as even more important to them.
“For many, it’s a form of exercise which helps them improve their body composition and cardiovascular systems, and research also shows improvements in pain management, bowel and bladder function as well as overall mental health and social interaction. We continue to be inspired by the experiences these ReWalkers share with us, but this doesn’t surprise us because the opportunity to use a device that benefits the body and mind has attracted some very motivated and capable individuals.”
This goes beyond sport. The ReWalk Exo-Suit is changing lives and allowing people to walk again. A true gamechanger of the 21st century.