British Paralympian swimmer takes first steps wearing a robotic suit

Incredible moment a British Paralympian swimmer with cerebral palsy stands up and takes her first steps wearing a robotic exoskeleton

  • Grace Harvey, 21, tried out the robotic suit made at Japan’s Suzuka University
  • The swimmer is the British number one in the 100 metre (328 feet) backstroke
  • Footage shows Ms Harvey smiling as she takes her first tentative steps forward
  • Paralympic Suzanna Hext also walked in the suit for the first time since 2012

Incredible footage shows the moment a British Paralympian swimmer with cerebral palsy stands up and takes her first steps wearing a robotic exoskeleton.

Grace Harvey, 21, was able to take the special walk with the help of state-of-the-art technology developed in Japan — giving her a day she will never forget.

In the video, the swimmer from Ware, Hertfordshire, smiled nervously as she took her ‘first’ tentative steps.

She went on to giggle when a bystander said ‘You’re running, Grace.’

Swimmer Ms Harvey holds the European record for the 200 metre (656 feet) Individual Medley and is presently the British number one in the 100 metre (328 feet) backstroke event.

She is currently training in the city of Suzuka, Japan, ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics in August.

As part of her trip, she was given the opportunity to try out a robotic suit at Suzuka University — which enabled her to ‘walk’.

Ms Harvey, who has cerebral palsy and began swimming as part of her physiotherapy, posted a video of the ‘amazing’ experience on Twitter.

In the footage, the Paralympian can be seen wearing the robotic suit which was strapped around her waist, while harnessed to a walking frame that she uses to steady herself as she took steps forward.

‘For the first time ever. I stood straight. For the first time ever. I walked with a normal walking pattern,’ Ms Harvey wrote on Twitter.

‘I cannot thank @britishswimming and Suzuka University enough for the most amazing experience.’

‘Technology creates possibilities, it gave me a day I won’t ever forget.’


Incredible footage shows the moment a British Paralympian swimmer with cerebral palsy stands up and takes her first steps wearing a robotic exoskeleton

Grace Harvey, 21, was able to take the special walk with the help of state-of-the-art technology developed in Japan — giving her a day she will never forget

Ms Harvey was not the only Paralympic athlete given the change to use the apparatus — with dual athlete Suzanna Hext posting a similar video to social media.

‘I WALKED…The moment you pinch yourself again, as you realise you walked for the first time since your life changing spinal cord injury in 2012,’ she wrote on Twitter.

‘Massive thanks to Suzuka medical uni, cyberdyne, @britishswimming and @Connectwjapan for making this possible. A dream come true…’

Ms Harvey was not the only Paralympic athlete given the change to use the apparatus — with dual athlete Suzanna Hext posting a similar video to social media


‘I WALKED…The moment you pinch yourself again, as you realise you walked for the first time since your life changing spinal cord injury in 2012,’ Ms Hext wrote on Twitter

WHAT IS AN EXOSKELETON? 

Exoskeletons are wearable devices that work in tandem with the user.

Exoskeletons are placed on the user’s body and act as amplifiers that augment, reinforce or restore human performance. 

The opposite would be a mechanical prosthetic, such as a robotic arm or leg that replaces the original body part.

Exoskeletons can be made out of rigid materials such as metal or carbon fibre, or they can be made entirely out of soft and elastic parts.

Exoskeletons can be powered and equipped with sensors and actuators, or they can be entirely passive.

Exoskeletons can be mobile or fixed/suspended and can cover the entire body, just the upper or lower extremities, or even a specific body segment such as the ankle or the hip.

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