“Bladerunner” Liam Malone, who lit up the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games with his sensational sprint double, has announced his retirement from the sport at the age of 24.
The charismatic Nelson-raised athlete says he has made the “difficult” decision due to a number of factors but ultimately lacks the motivation and will to continue in the sport in the countdown to the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
“Over the last month I have been reflecting on my position and I have made the difficult decision to retire my running career effective immediately,” Liam explains. “External events both in and out of my control have taken a toll on my training in the last month and I don’t feel I have the emotional investment or necessary focus and energy to succeed at the highest level in Tokyo.
“Becoming an elite athlete was an incredible journey but life is short, I want to find something that I can commit to and be happy in for a long time. It would be unjust to commit half-heartedly to those who support me, my coach, the supporting organisations, the New Zealand public, sponsors, my friends and family.”
Liam had recently engaged with HPSNZ’s Goldmine initiative to develop new cutting-edge blades for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games but this project will now be put on hold following the Paralympic star’s decision.
Born with the fibular hemimelia – in which part or all of the fibula bone is missing – Liam had both legs amputated below the knee at 18 months. Raised in Nelson, Liam was inspired to start an athletics career while studying at the University of Canterbury and his journey began with the generous support from the New Zealand public who donated funds to assist Liam with the purchase of his running blades.
He started training in 2014 and the following year made his international debut finishing fifth and sixth in the T43 100m and 200m, respectively, at the 2015 IPC World Championships.
Then in 2016 he emerged as an international star producing a series of exhilarating performances to secure double gold courtesy of a pair of Paralympic records in the T44 200m and 400m at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games as well as winning a silver medal in the T44 100m.
Always an inspiration off as well as on the track, Liam was selected as a member of the World Para Athletics Advisory Group in 2017 and is a regular speaker and motivator at development camps and introductory Para athletics days. Last year he was forced to withdraw from the 2017 World Para Athletics Championships due to a bone bruising injury on his stumps.
Athletics NZ Chief Executive Hamish Grey praised the huge impact Liam has made on the sport in New Zealand and added: ““On behalf of Athletics New Zealand I wish to congratulate Liam on his wonderful career.
“The decision to step away from a sport you are so successful at is never easy and Liam can step away knowing he has done New Zealand proud and helped raise the awareness of Paralympic Sport across the globe”.
“The door will always be open for Liam at Athletics New Zealand and we will continue to support Liam wherever possible. I have no doubt Liam will succeed in his future endeavours”.
Fiona Allan, Chief Executive, Paralympics New Zealand adds “Liam Malone's performances at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games were truly exceptional. During, and post, the Games he was a fantastic Paralympic ambassador nationally and internationally. We acknowledge and thank Liam for assisting in developing a greater awareness of Paralympic sport and further assisting in changing societal perceptions. He achieved this through his athletic performance and success on the track and also through numerous community events and speaking engagements. We wish him all the best for the future.”
Liam has taken up a full-time role with the business development team at Soul Machines – a groundbreaking hi-tech company of Artificial Intelligence researchers, neuroscientists, psychologists, artists and innovative thinkers with the goal to reimagine what is possible in human computing.
“It’s an exciting opportunity for me to learn from and work with a group of incredibly talented people who are changing the world for the better,” added Liam.
Media release created by Athletics New Zealand.