An athlete with Velox gear designed by Sarah Klecker (above); Sarah Klecker (below right)
MS in Sports Product Design student Sarah Klecker (class of 2020) was dismayed when she discovered that Paralympian athletes are issued the same gear as Olympian athletes.
A runner, Klecker, who grew up in a family of athletes with a mother who ran in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, remembers dreaming of making it to the Olympics.
“Growing up I had those moments where you imagine yourself getting the Olympic uniform and representing team USA,” Klecker told the College of Design. “After how hard [Paralympians] work, and then getting something that isn’t really designed for you—I think they deserve better.”
For her capstone project, Klecker created Velox, a collection of Paralympic uniforms, weatherproof training apparel, and push gloves designed for elite women wheelchair-racing athletes. For the project, she collaborated with some of the world’s best Paralympian athletes at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. (Find Klecker’s Velox project in the virtual gallery for Sports Product Design on the 2020 School of Art + Design exhibition page.)
Runner’s World recently profiled Klecker and the Velox project.
“Klecker started by designing snug tights using slick fabrics, far easier for sliding into the tight space of a racing chair. She crafted three-quarter–length arm sleeves using fabric laced with Kevlar yarn, which would protect athletes’ inner biceps from sweat and chafing in warmer conditions like those predicted in Tokyo,” the article states.
“No matter what, she hopes her project raises awareness of the currently nonexistent market for adaptive sports apparel. ‘It’s a space that would make a huge statement in terms of us broadening our cultural perception of what it looks like to be athletes,’ she said. ‘Representation has been such a huge issue across the board, whether we’re talking about race or gender or ability level. Being able to see yourself reflected in product is important and encouraging,’” the article states.