The International Paralympic Committee honored University of Pittsburgh researcher Rory Cooper at its Vista 2013 Conference in Bonn, Germany in May with its Paralympic Scientific Award. The IPC recognized Cooper, a paraplegic, for his contributions to the Paralympic movement in the field of sports science.
Cooper has been a Paralympic athlete, coach and event organizer as well as a sports science researcher. The Army veteran was injured in a noncombat accident and was introduced to sports through the National Veterans Wheelchair Games. He won numerous medals, set world records and won the bronze medal at the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea.
Cooper heads up the Human Engineering Research Laboratories at the University of Pittsburgh, where he has developed state of the art wheelchair technology that has advanced competition in wheelchair racing, handcycling, wheelchair tennis and seated throwing events. He says the Paralympics have evolved into a world-class sporting event because technology allows people to achieve their full athletic potential.
While the Paralympic movement has greatly benefited from Cooper’s work, his contributions to the individual athlete and wheelchair user have been especially rewarding. “One of the most exciting things about the work I do is to see other people benefit from that technology and achieve their dreams,” Cooper says.