National Law Firm, Irwin Mitchell, has recently agreed to become the ‘Commercial Sponsor’ for a UK based team competing at Cybathlon 2016: the World’s first competitive championships for Robotic and Technology assisted paralysed athletes.
Team Gray Matter approached the law firm’s head office in Sheffield with a view to obtaining sponsorship, for Peter Gray, a 31-year-old man from Doncaster, who was paralysed from the neck down back in 2008 following a ‘freak accident’ during a family holiday in the Dominican. Peter is now tetraplegic meaning he suffered total paralysis to his torso and limbs.
Ivan Nixon, team leader, creator of Team Gray Matter, and long-time friend of Peter has been the drive behind the project. Over the last few years, Ivan and other friends have visited Peter and tried introducing him to a number of different technologies which would help support Peter and his family, when one day, they came across some information on the internet regarding Cybathlon 2016.
This is where the journey to getting Peters life back on track really started. After contacting many leading authorities across the globe, Peters story and ambition to enter Cybathlon 2016 gained momentum. Now, in May of 2015, as part of a non-profit project and with a great team and network of supporting organisations, Peter is registered as a pilot in the first ever Brain Computer Interface (BCI) Race at Cybathlon 2016. The training process is already under way and the team has welcomed its Technology Leader, Dr. Rolando Grave de Peralra Menendez for his visit from Geneva during May as part of the development process for the BCI device.
The five-figure sponsorship deal from Irwin Mitchell will allow Team Gray Matter to build upon its growing team, to develop and test the technologies that Pete requires and to assist with the teams transport across the globe.
Father of one, Peter, said “‘The last eight years for me have provided agony, heartache and I’ve had to overcome many obstacles that life has presented. I’ve been very fortunate to have the love and care of many family members and close friends, but to an equal extent, I have also lost many passions and hobbies and many relationships have broken down as a result of my situation.
“When we first discovered news of a championships for athletes full of high-tech disciplines that included one for people with my level of paralysis, I was highly intrigued and agreed to let Ivan run with it and see what would happen, although the idea of it leading anywhere soon left my mind.“
“As the weeks went by, things started to develop and gather momentum very quickly and we even had interest from organisations on three different continents!“
“Now I am registered to take part in the games and thanks to Team Gray Matter and now Irwin Mitchell, the original thoughts, the original ideas, ambitions and dreams that I have can hopefully be achieved. It’s great to realise that there are businesses out there willing to support you, to support athletes who have had to overcome adversity to achieve their goals.
“The road is still a long one but the journey is now possible and we can start to meet with our technology partners to start testing the equipment I need.”
Louise Jenkins, a specialist serious injury lawyer at Irwin Mitchell commented: “We see the difficulties that people with disabilities face on a daily basis just in their everyday lives, so for Peter and his team to be taking on the Cybathlon is a real inspiration to others. We are delighted to be able to sponsor Team Gray Matter and hope that by doing so it raises awareness of what can be achieved with hard work, dedication and the support of specialists. Not everyone wants to take part in elite sports or championship races, but Peter is proof that whatever your goal, there should be nothing stopping you from having ambition.“
For those unaware of Cybathlon, it is a championship for racing pilots with disabilities (i.e. athletes) who are using advanced assistive devices including robotic technologies. The competitions are comprised by different disciplines that apply the most modern powered knee prostheses, wearable arm prostheses, powered exoskeletons, powered wheelchairs, electrically stimulated muscles and novel brain-computer interfaces. The assistive devices can include commercially available products provided by companies, but also prototypes developed by research labs.
There will be two medals for each competition, one for the pilot, who is driving the device, and one for the provider of the device. The event is organised on behalf of the Swiss National Competence Center of Research in Robotics (NCCR Robotics).
The main goal of the Cybathlon is to provide a platform for the development of novel assistive technologies that are useful for daily life. Through the organisation of the Cybathlon, it wants to help remove barriers between the public, people with disabilities and science.
The rehearsals for the Cybathlon games are set for July of this year and The Championship for Robot-Assisted athletes will take place at Kolping Arena, Kloten, Zurich, Switzerland, 8 October 2016
For more information about Cybathlon 2016 visit http://www.cybathlon.ethz.ch