Liam Malone overcame personal tragedy and anxiety about his disability to win two Paralympic gold medals at Rio 2016, beating the times set by the disgraced ‘Blade Runner’ Oscar Pistorius. Malone lit up the track during his career, which now at the age of just 24, is over. By Jade du Preez
Paralympic gold medallist Liam Malone has announced his retirement from competitive running at the tender age of 24 years old. The Kiwi has overcome adversity over the last few years, taking up athletics after his life spiralled out of control. His mother died of cancer when he was just a teenager, and his anxiety, caused by his disability, resulted in life-threateningly dangerous behaviour.
But it all began before Malone was even two years old. He underwent a double amputation below the knee to correct the fibular hemimelia he was born with. Fibular hemimelia meant that he was born without fibular bones in his legs and for the first 18 months of his life, he struggled to walk on his feet. As a young boy, he made local news for his sportiness and positivity, but it soon turned to anxiety that people might see his prosthetics. Malone struggled during his teenage years with anxiety that would lead him down a self-destructive path, and with his mother Trudi dying of cancer, he had several car accidents and got involved in selling weed. Unbelievably, Malone would go on to change his life, and whilst running in her name, make his mother incredibly proud.
After his mother’s death to cancer, Malone pulled his life together in an extraordinary way. He focused on athletics and started using meditation to control his anxiety. If displaying his prosthetics was an issue for him, then running with blades on show would be his next challenge. His maximum permitted height in the T43 running events was just under 6 foot 2 inches, and as most running wear is cut off above the knee, this was not going to be easy for the young Kiwi, who crowdfunded his first pair of blades when he was just 19 years old.
Nevertheless, he took the 2016 Rio Paralympics by storm, running in three spectacular races. In the men’s 100 metres race he won a silver medal, hot on the tail of Britain’s Jonnie Peacock, MBE. Then in the 200 and 400 metres races he would set new Paralympic records as he crossed the line in first place in both events. His times succeeded discredited South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius’ and made him the faster para-sprinter over 200 and 400 metres. A milestone for any runner, able bodied or not, but little did he know, it would be the first and last Paralympics of his career.
His retirement has come as a shock for some, as his astounding career only just seemed to be starting, but for others it looked fairly imminent. Malone had recently taken up quite a few extra projects including charity work, a presenting gig with Channel 4, skydiving, cage diving with sharks and a trip to Antarctica. It’s safe to say, his diary has been packed, but it was a lack of motivation that played a part in his early retirement. Malone says he wants to find a career that he can commit to and that other circumstances out with his control ultimately determined his decision.
With such an impressive back catalogue of work behind him, it’s not real surprise that he’s already accepted a job with Soul Machines, an Artificial Intelligence company. This also seems like a good fit for the athlete who tweeted: “The Paralympics will make the Olympics look like the antiques roadshow in 50 years. Paralympians will be [the] most advanced humans on the planet.” A positive spin on things from a bright talent, who will be sorely missed on the track, for both his athletic abilities and his unashamed sense of humour.
— Liam Malone (@LiamMalone93) July 17, 2017