Athletes in 2018 Winter Paralympics Using Equipment by Bethlehem Company
By Colin McEvoy on February 23, 2018
The Winter Olympics have come to a close, but the 2018 Winter Paralympics are just getting started, and some of the athletes participating in those games will be using skis made here in the Lehigh Valley.
The Winter Paralympics is a major international winter sports athletic event for athletes with disabilities. Held every four years after the Winter Olympic Games, this year’s event will be held from March 9 to March 18 in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Among those in attendance will be Channy Tokura, the founder of DynAccess, the Bethlehem-based company that designs and manufactures adaptive ski equipment. This year, three Paralympic athletes will be using DynAccess monoskis.
“I am very thankful for the help we’ve received from the resources and organizations here Lehigh Valley, which has made our success possible,” Tokura said. “We’re very proud to represent the Lehigh Valley in Pyeongchang and at the Paralympics.”
The three athletes using DynAccess monoskis during this year’s Paralympics are Tyler Walker, a member of the U.S. alpine ski team; Stephani Victor, who has American and Swiss dual citizenships and is skiing with the Swiss alpine team; and Arly Velasquez, of the Mexican alpine ski team.
While Walker will be using an older DynAccess model that he has already long trained with, Victor and Velasquez will be using the company’s newest model, the Hydra. It features the same light frame and adjustable shock absorber as past DynAccess models, but also includes new unique suspension kinematics that automatically move the body of the skier in the correct fashion.
“It is my sincerest intention to give my best performance at the upcoming games, but no matter what the outcome, the Hydra mono-ski itself has proven that an evolution in mono-ski equipment is underway,” said Victor, a five-time Paralympic athlete with two golds. “DynAccess is committed to providing quality products, outstanding customer care and building a team of riders that collaborate together to continue to push the boundaries. I am thrilled to be a part of this team”
DynAccess was able to commercialize this Hydra model thanks to a $15,000 technology transfer grant it received in 2015 from the Southside Bethlehem Keystone Innovation Zone (KIZ), which helps to foster innovation and create entrepreneurial opportunities in Bethlehem’s southside neighborhood.
“We will be watching the Paralympics very closely and wish DynAccess and Tyler Walker success in Pyeongchang,” said Bethlehem Mayor Bob Donchez. “Channy has found a niche in the marketplace and we’re looking forward to their monoskis becoming the gold standard for all athletes.”
This is not the first time DynAccess monoskis have been used in the Paralympics. Chris Devlin-Young, a retired four-time Paralympic medalist and World Cup and X Games champion, was an early proponent of DynAccess, and used one of its monoskis during the 2014 Winter Paralymics in Sochi.
This will be the first time, however, that Tokura will be at the Paralympics herself, along with her husband, Joachim Grenestedt, a mechanical engineering professor at Lehigh University who designs the company’s monoskis.
In addition to cheering on the athletes using their products, Tokura and Grenestedt will be on hand in Pyeongchang to provide support and technical assistance with the monoskis if necessary, as well as to discuss their company with other athletes if possible, Tokura said.
Victor has won multiple medals as an American, but this year will be representing Switzerland for the first time; her husband Marcel Kuonen, a former Swiss national alpine ski member, will be her coach.
Kuonen first conceived the idea of the Hydra’s suspension kinematic, Tokura said. For years he could not find anyone who could materialize the idea, until he met Grenestedt, who designed Hydra’s prototype based upon it.
“From the very first day of skiing on the Hydra, I knew I was skiing on something different. Something better,” Victor said. “I was finally skiing on a machine that performed the way Marcel had described for so many years was possible.”
DynAccess began in 2011, and launched its first commercialized monoski the same year after receiving its first technology transfer grant from the Southside Bethlehem KIZ. The Bethlehem startup has since become recognized as one of the most advanced monoski manufacturers in the United States.
The company was originally located in Pi: Partnership for Innovation, a Bethlehem startup business incubator, but have since moved to a new location in the city at 301 Broadway, Schiavone said.
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