Super-speed is undoubtedly one of the most popular superpowers in comics, shared across generations of families in both Marvel and DC universes. Most famously, the Flash family (Jay Garrick, Barry Allen, Wally West, Bart Allen, and more) in DC Comics and Quicksilver and Speed in Marvel are only a few of a long list of characters with the power to travel great distances in the blink of an eye. It’s pretty easy to understand why this is such a prominent power: who wouldn’t want the ability get things done at the speed of thought and leave plenty of time for some R&R?
So how can you get the speed of Usain Bolt and the endurance of Lance Armstrong without the years of intense physical training? One possible solution could be mechanical legs: Oscar Pistorius of South Africa calls himself the fastest man on no legs. Pistorius, who has a double amputation of both legs, is the world record holder in the 100, 200 and 400 metres events in the Paralympics and runs with the aid of Cheetah Flex-Foot carbon fibre transtibial artificial limbs by Ossur.
In 2007, Pistorius took part in his first international competitions for able-bodied athletes. However, his artificial lower legs, while enabling him to compete, have generated claims that he has an unfair advantage over able-bodied runners. The same year, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) amended its competition rules to ban the use of “any technical device that incorporates springs, wheels or any other element that provides a user with an advantage over another athlete not using such a device”. The federation claimed that the amendment was not specifically aimed at Pistorius. After monitoring his track performances and carrying out tests, scientists took the view that Pistorius enjoyed considerable advantages over athletes without prosthetic limbs. On the strength of these findings, on 14 January 2008 the IAAF ruled him ineligible for competitions conducted under its rules, including the 2008 Summer Olympics. Obviously, the artificial legs used by Pistorius won’t work for those of us born with both our fibulas, but the physics knowledge and technology at work in the Cheetah Flex-Foot limbs could easily be applied to the enhancement of natural limbs.