'Blade runner' Liam inspired by public's support
A young Wakefield athlete is well on the way towards becoming an elite amputee "blade runner" after receiving more than $20,000 toward his Paralympic dream.
Nineteen-year-old Liam Malone appeared on TV3's 3rd Degree programme last Wednesday to speak about his goal of participating in the 2016 Paralympics in Rio. The former Nayland College student was born with a condition named fibular hemimelia, which meant both of his legs had to be amputated below the knee when he reached 2.
Now studying commerce and psychology at the University of Canterbury, Mr Malone is a keen sportsman who enjoys rugby, mountain biking, snowboarding and sprinting. In order to make it into his chosen discipline, he plans to buy a $20,000 pair of carbon-fibre "blade" prosthetics that would sharply increase his speed and efficiency.
He explained that when non-amputees ran, their leg muscles naturally returned "a large proportion" of energy expended, meaning they did not tire as quickly. His current prosthetics returned very little energy, but the J-shaped blades used by athletes such as South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius would work more naturally with his body.
Mr Pistorius has the same condition as Mr Malone. Mr Malone has said that he admired the older athlete's sporting achievements despite his recent arrest for the murder of his girlfriend.
Further similarities between the two include their transition from rugby to sprinting, and both have lost their mothers. Mr Malone's mother lived with cancer for six years before passing away last year.
He said he expected the blades would change his running style, but he was unwilling to estimate how much faster he might end up.
"I think a lot of it will come down to individual chance."
Following the TV show's screening, Mr Malone received donations from all over New Zealand that more than covered the cost of his first set of blades. A trust has been set up to handle the overflow.
"It's pretty remarkable actually, I didn't expect how many sponsors I got. It's been inspiring and overwhelming."
He will be measured up for the blades by a technological team before ordering them through the New Zealand Artificial Limb Board in Christchurch. The process will be a new twist on a familiar theme for the teenager, who has destroyed "uncountable" prosthetic limbs during his athletic pursuits.
He expects to receive the new blades within three to five months.
Mr Malone's father Murray said the Paralympics campaign had been developed independently.
Although based in Wakefield, he is the general manager for a fruit growing and trading firm that operates throughout Asia.
"I've just come back from two months abroad and found all this, it's just fantastic," he said. "I want to give my sincere thanks to all those good people in Nelson who have donated or have called to support us over the last few weeks."
He said his son had stepped back from an earlier involvement with Paralympics activities following his mother's cancer diagnosis. He travelled to Australia as a junior Paralympian when he was 14.
The pair had had a special bond and the young athlete was badly affected by her death, but his father saw his new focus as a sign that he was feeling like his former self again.
"[Making it to Rio] is something he's very capable of doing. He's got a very determined personality."
YOU CAN HELP
Wakefield teenager Liam Malone intends to make it to the 2016 Paralympics in Rio. Donations can be sent to his Westpac bank account under the name LIAM MALONE: 03 0703 0636849 000
- © Fairfax NZ News