Bhutanese Athlete Tshering Penjor Becomes First to Utilize Prosthetic Running Blade

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Phurpa Wangmo

In a groundbreaking initiative, the Bhutan Paralympic Committee has partnered with Xiborg Japan and Gidakom Prosthetic and Orthotic Unit to pioneer the creation of the country’s inaugural prosthetic running blade. This innovative step marks a significant advancement in the field of adaptive sports and underscores Bhutan’s commitment to inclusivity and empowerment.

The historic event unfolded on August 18 when Tshering Penjor, a student at Yangchen Gastsel Higher Secondary in Thimphu Dzongkhag, was selected to be the first Bhutanese athlete to utilize a running blade. This milestone not only propels Tshering into the realm of adaptive sports but also paves the way for others with amputations to explore their athletic potential.

The Bhutan Paralympic Committee has been dedicated to fostering awareness and understanding of the Paralympic Movement and Para sports among the general public and individuals with disabilities. This initiative, in partnership with Xiborg Japan and Gidakom Hospital, aims to educate young amputees about prosthetic running blades. Furthermore, prosthetics technicians are undergoing training to assemble running blades domestically at the Gidakom Prosthetic unit.

Renowned for its production of running blades, Xiborg Japan has generously extended support by providing free prosthetic running blades to two or three young individuals with amputations. Tshering Penjor emerged as the ideal candidate after careful consideration since not all amputees are suited for running blades due to varying factors.

The driving force behind the introduction of sports prosthetic blades was Para-coach Penjor Gyeltshen, a dedicated HPE teacher. His vision to educate young amputees about the possibilities of prosthetic running blades led him to seek the assistance of Xiborg Japan’s CEO, Ken Endo. While Tshering was the most suitable candidate at present, Xiborg Japan will also provide training to local prosthetics technicians to facilitate the assembly of running prosthetics within Bhutan.

Paralympic Coach Penjor Gyeltshen said, “While many young individuals with amputations reside outside Thimphu, not everyone is a suitable candidate for wearing prosthetic running blades.”

“Acknowledging the significance of this endeavor, Tshering Penjor’s journey with the running blade will not only serve as a personal achievement but also as an inspiring example for other young individuals with amputations. As a trained Para-Athletics coach, I can provide Tshering with fundamental running drills and assist him in his running journey.

Given that Tshering is currently pursuing his education, we need to strategize his training sessions to coincide with his school vacations,” added Penjor Gyeltshen.

Tshering Penjor, who is 15 years old, expressed great joy upon receiving his first prosthetic running blade. He shared that he felt extremely happy about it and had high hopes of using the blade to participate in sport competitions in other countries in the future.

Calibrating the prosthetic blade’s height to suit Tshering’s specific requirements is an essential step in the process. However, the assembly of the blade itself is relatively manageable, similar to the construction of conventional prosthetics at the Gidakom Prosthetic unit.

While running prosthetic blades come with a substantial cost, ranging from over US$1000 for beginner models to more than US$2000 for professional-grade blades, Xiborg’s contribution and the newfound local expertise in assembly present a transformative opportunity for the Paralympic Movement in the country.

With this achievement, Bhutan is poised to build upon its newfound capabilities, ensuring that individuals like Tshering have access to the tools they need to pursue their athletic aspirations. As the prosthetics technicians gain proficiency, the nation anticipates supporting more young individuals with amputations on their journey towards a more inclusive and empowering future.

On Saturday, Tshering began his training with the assistance of Dai, an Olympian from Japan

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