TEXT: BJØRNHILD FJELD - PHOTO: TORE FJELD
24-year-old Helle Sofie Sagøy competes at the top of the world in para-badminton.
SHE HOPES A CUSTOMIZED SPORTS PROSTHESY WILL BRING HER EVEN CLOSER TO HER GOAL OF A MEDAL IN PARALYMPICS.
- I refused to get a sports prosthesis, should not have any "robot foot". So the first time I got a "blade" was in 2018, says the 24-year-old who is Norway's best athlete in para-badminton.
Wait a minute, badminton, is not that how we play in the garden in the summer?
- Competition badminton is something completely different, it can not be compared. It is a tough sport that requires technique, tactics, strength and speed - and not least a lot of training, says Helle Sofie.
Dreams of a Paralympics medal
Growing up, she tried different sports, including football, but it was in badminton that she realized she could be really good.
- In 2013, I competed for the first time in para-badminton in an international tournament. I was 15 years old then, she says.
And after that, it has literally gone from strength to strength. She is a two-time world champion and in 2021 she participated in the Paralympics in Tokyo. The dream was a medal, but it ended with a 4th place. The next big goal is the Paralympics in Paris in 2024.
The badminton community in Norway is not very large, and parabadminton is even smaller. Only Helle Sofie is a committed para-athlete in Norway, and in 2020 she chose to move to Kristiansand, which has Norway's largest and best badminton environment. Here she trains 8 sessions a week, in addition to studying alongside. But badminton is her main focus.
- Tokyo gave more taste, even though it was overwhelming to participate in such a big championship, she says.
As a top athlete, Helle Sofie knows that small details can make a big difference. She has therefore learned to like the "robot foot" a little better.
- A sports prosthesis is like a feather, it gives a response to the surface, she explains.
Sometimes a year, Helle Sofie visits the clinic of OCH Orthopedics at Helsfyr in Oslo to have the prosthesis adapted.
- Helle Sofie's prosthesis is without a doubt the most demanding to work with, but at the same time it is very interesting to have to adapt a prosthesis to a top athlete. We work a lot together to adjust and try, so that the result is as good as possible, says Irene Pedersen, who is an orthopedic engineer at OCH Orthopedics.
Badminton is a sport where the athlete has to move a lot from side to side, and footwork is important. This places different demands on the prosthesis than, for example, a running athlete.
- The prosthesis is a part of my body. It is incredibly important that it fits perfectly, says Helle Sofie.
- We are constantly looking for "the perfect fit". The nice thing about working with Helle Sofie is that she is very specific in her feedback, Irene adds.
As mentioned, badminton is not a big sport in the Norwegian context, something Helle Sofie would like to see changed.
- It is a tough and demanding sport, but which also gives a lot of joy and mastery. To be good, you just have to practice, practice, practice, she says.
Ever since she was a child, she has been concerned with doing the same as others, and has not let the prosthesis prevent her from being active.
- I did not want to be special, I wanted to be like the others, achieve the same. When I compete in Norway, I compete in the regular class, it goes just fine, says Helle Sofie.
Dysmelia is a collective term for all congenital conditions where the arms and / or legs are not developed as usual, for example that a foot or hand is missing. Every year, about 20 children are born with dysmeli.