By James Crook

brendanburkettMay 1 - Paralympian and biomechanics professor Brendan Burkett delivered a key note speech on whether equipment in Paralympic sport is performance enhancing or necessary for performance at the International Paralympic Committee's (IPC) VISTA2013 conference in Bonn. 

Burkett, who won Paralympic gold for Australia in swimming at Atlanta 1996 in the 50 metres freestyle S9 category, discussed the subject which came under the spotlight further following London 2012. 

Oscar Pistorious claimed that the length of gold-medal winning T44 200 metres rival Alan Oliveira's blades gave him an unfair advantage- a claim which was seen as highly controversial. 

"In terms of Paralympic sports, we're still in this void, in this vacuum," said Burkett, winner of a total of five Paralympic medals.

"A lot more explanation and research still has to be done.

"But we still need to keep the essence of the sport.

"We need to keep that while also improving the functionality of the sport.

"We don't want the sports to be inhibited by robots, though.

"We want them to always be controlled by the humans."

Burkett also discussed the issue of tradition versus technology, and the notion of ensuring that the public audience is always easily able to understand what role technology and classification play in Paralympic sport.

121019145316696 151280508.mainpicture 612Biomechanics professor Brendan Burkett delivered a key note speech on whether  equipment in Paralympic sport is performance enhancing or necessary for performance

American Dr Rory Cooper also received the Paralympic Scientific Award, which is awarded by the IPC to an academic researcher for his or her contributions to research in the field of sports for persons with an impairment, and serves to promote and encourage further study in this area.

Cooper is the founding director of the Human Engineering Research Laboratories at the University of Pittsburgh and has contributed to the Paralympic Movement as an athlete, coach, event organiser and sport scientist.

The United States Army veteran was a bronze medallist in the wheelchair racing relay at the Seoul 1988 Paralympic Games and is known for his involvement in the Wounded Warrior Project and the National Veterans Wheelchair Games.

"I've collaborated in research with so many of the previous winners of this award, and so it's an honour now to be a part of this group," Cooper said upon receiving the award.

He also spoke of  his main aims, which he said have been to help achieve equity in Paralympic competition as well as to increase participation in para-sport and maximise an athlete's potential.

The conference runs through until this Saturday (May 4), and Chris Rushman from Motivation UK- an international development charity supporting people with mobility impairments - and Simone Oehler, from prosthetics company and IPC Worldwide Partner, Ottobock, set to deliver their key note speeches tomorrow. 

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Related stories: 
April 2013: 
Pistorius scientist and Paralympic champion Popow to open VISTA2013
March 2013: American wins Paralympic Scientific Award