Karen Darke image

Mobility product specialist Gerald Simonds is assisting Paralympic gold medallist Karen Darke as she prepares for Tokyo 2020 and her latest Quest79 challenges through providing pressure management solutions.

A climbing accident at the age of 21 left Karen paralysed from the chest down. In spite of this, she is part of the British para-cycling team, winning a gold medal for the hand-cycling time trial at the 2016 Games in Rio. She is currently training for the 2020 Games in Tokyo.

In addition to her busy training and competition schedule, Karen has also set herself a target of completing nine endurance cycling events in seven continents as part of her Quest79 campaign.

Throughout her para-cycling career, one problem Karen has found challenging is the issue of pressure sores. The lack of sensation that accompanies paralysis can mean that pressure sores can be very dangerous for Karen.

“I have intermittently had issues with pressure sores when training and taking part in events, she said. “Then I was introduced to a member of the German team at a competition, who was using a seating system which comprised of Stimulite sheets.

“On my return to the UK, I spoke to Wheelchair Services who supplied me with one for my standard wheelchair. However, I knew this could also be the answer to my ongoing pressure sore issues when cycling”.

Karen got in touch with Gerald Simonds, the sole UK distributor for the range of Stimulite pressure management solutions, to ask if there was any way of using Stimulite on her recumbent bike seat.

Marketing Manager for Gerald Simonds Emily Tomson said: “Initially, Karen sent us a template of her recumbent bike seat so that we could ask Supracor to create the seat shape using Stimulite sheets.

“Following Karen’s feedback to ensure the size, style and shape were perfect we had four custom seats produced in various levels of thickness and density to ensure Karen had suitable seats for training, racing and her Quest79 challenges.”

Karen Darke image

Karen explained that the seats are protective and comfy, which she believes will help her defend her Paralympic title at the Tokyo 2020 Games.

When the Paralympian won gold in 2016, it was her 79th medal for her country and 79 is also the atomic number of gold, and so Karen said that was when her Quest79 dream was born.

Some of the challenges she has completed so far include cycling along the Carretera Austral and a 3,000km hand-cycle trek from Canada to Mexico.

“I know some people think I must be mad undertaking my Quest79 challenges while also training for Tokyo 2020 and competing in various other competitions, but I believe in challenging myself and living life to the full,” Karen commented. “None of this would have been possible without the support of the team at Gerald Simonds and the amazing Stimulite seating as I have travelled across some incredibly rough terrain in my Quest79 challenges and can train with the peace of mind the seating gives me.”

Established in 1983, Gerald Simonds is a supplier manual, powered and standing wheelchairs, powerdrives, seating and pressure care products.

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