Heinrich Popow lost part of his left leg to cancer when he was nine, but it hasn’t slowed him down.
The German athlete is a world paralympic 100-meter champion and a paralympic silver medal winner.
He’s also an ambassador for Otto Bock HealthCare, which makes prosthetic limbs and is the official limb provider for the Paralympics.
Heinrich wears one of their sport prostheses for running.
“The foot doesn’t have a heel, just the ball of the foot as you don’t really need a heel for sprinting. The knee joint is quite easily adjusted, it just has to support me when I bend or stretch the knee or when I come to a stop.”
Off the track, Heinrich wears an everyday prosthesis from Otto Bock.
The Genium is so new it’s not even on the market yet and he’s been helping test it.
He says it’s more technically advanced than his previous prosthesis, the C-Leg.
“With the Genium I can walk upstairs, I can’t do that with the C-Leg. I find that the C-Leg reacts when something happens, but I feel the Genium is constantly acting not reacting. As soon as something happens it acts.”
The middle of Germany, miles from a motorway or airport, might not seem like the obvious home for a world market leader in its field. But Otto Bock’s headquarters have remained in Duderstadt since 1946.
It now has a network of sales and service locations in over 44 countries and employs around 4500 people.
Each year, it spends around 30 million euros on research and development on innovations like the Genium.
This is one of Otto Bock’s latest products, the Michelangelo hand. It’s the first in the world that has software inside – allowing the wearer to grip things in seven different ways – and it’s coming on the market in January 2012.
Helmut Pfuhl, manager of strategy and marketing, says the privately owned firm gets a lot of demand from emerging markets.
“Average growth in prosthetics in specific is about 8% per year. We will see a continuous stream of innovations, but basic innovations are something we expect to see every five to 10 years in the industry.”
The latest innovations are a world away from the wooden prostheses the company began to create for war veterans after World War I.
Heinrich hopes that further advances in prosthetics will improve his daily life as he goes for gold next year at the London Paralympics.
Bottom line: The middle of Germany, miles from a motorway or airport, is home to Otto Bock, world market leader in prosthetic limbs. It’s preparing to bring two innovations, the Genium leg prosthesis and the Michelangelo hand, onto the market.
German paralympic athlete, Heinrich Popow, is an ambassador for Otto Bock and plans to go for gold at London 2012.