What does it mean to be the fastest person on Earth? Does it mean running, rolling, flying, skating, jumping, or bouncing faster? According to Liam Malone, the single qualification for being the fastest on Earth is to draw on one’s own power to get from point A to point B more quickly than anyone else. Whether one achieves this with two legs, with two spring-loaded blades, or by using one’s arms to propel a wheel chair doesn’t matter—as long as one crosses the finish line before anyone else.
Malone, who hails from Nelson, New Zealand, and looks and carries himself like an Academy Award winner, is the reigning Paralympic 200-meter champion and one of the two fastest blade runners in the world. But it would be a mistake to consider him differently abled—because he sure does not. In fact, Malone believes, perhaps rightfully, that he’s superhuman, that what others might mistake for an impairment has instead provided him with the ability to run faster than nearly anyone on the planet.
Since he started racing, Malone has been able to shave an extraordinary 2 seconds off his 10.9-second formerly best time. Bear in mind that the difference between two of Usain Bolt’s most recent world records is 0.06 of a second and you’ll understand why Malone’s improvement is widely regarded as astonishing. Consider also that Malone’s only been racing for five years. And speaking of Bolt…Malone’s got him in his crosshairs; in a few years, he plans to smash Bolt’s record. Yet he is not interested in doing this within the legal parameters of competition. He aims to fuse technology with sport to become the fastest man on Earth bar none. The rules are his to rewrite.
Over the last decade, Paralympic athletes have abandoned life in the shadows of their Olympic counterparts and have begun achieving their own acclaim. The Paralympic Games, held two weeks after the Olympics, at the same venue, now draw crowds that rival the better-known event.
The Australian Rheed McCracken, who has cerebral palsy, has witnessed this sea change over the course of a decade. In 2008, an 11-year-old McCracken tuned into his first Paralympics. At the time, he had not yet made the transition to being in a wheelchair full time, although the move was inevitable. But the moment he witnessed the Men’s 4×100 wheelchair relay, his life changed. “This,” McCracken says, “was exactly what I was going to do.”
Four years later, McCracken competed in his first Paralympic Games in London and took silver in the Men’s100 and bronze in the 200. And in 2016 in Rio, he competed and once more took silver in the 100 and also took home a bronze medal, this time in the 800. McCracken is built like a centaur and sports several colorful murals of tattoos that commemorate his many athletic victories. He glides over the track, usually far ahead of the field, purely on the strength of his upper body. And like Malone, he doesn’t consider himself differently abled. “I love being around the Paralympics environment,” McCracken says. “And I don’t look at this group as any different. I believe I compete at the highest level.”
The transformation in acceptance and now recognition for Paralympians since McCracken first started competing has been momentous. “The Australian Paralympics Committee is going onward and upward with how Paralympic athletes in Australia are presented,” McCracken says. “A little while ago, we were sort of just breaking through. But these days, athletes are being recognized in more places than just at the games themselves. They’re being recognized in the years in between.”
This off-field, out-of-competition recognition is particularly apparent in the case of Malone, who can often be found commentating on the sidelines, dining with such luminaries as Sir Richard Branson, or traveling to Antarctica as part of the Sustainability Council of New Zealand. In January, much to the world’s surprise, Malone retired from his sport to focus on his true passion: artificial intelligence. He works full time for an Auckland organization, Soul Machines, that designs“emotionally responsive digital humans,” according to its website.
All of this makes for a rich, dynamic life. “The way I look at myself, and what I genuinely believe, is that I’m more able than most people,” Malone says. “I don’t feel disabled at all. In fact, I would argue 10 times out of 10 that my legs are actually beneficial. I mean, there is no way that I would have ever been flown to New York to be put on a magazine cover unless I had two artificial legs, right? They in themselves provide me with opportunities. It just really hasn’t been a hindrance in my life.”
McCracken echoes this sentiment and continues to marvel at the possibilities that have opened up to him since he became a Paralympian.“It’s things like traveling the world, having opportunities that a lot of people don’t.” But even more than that, it’s the thrill of competition that speaks to McCracken. “Being able to compete in front of 80,000 people at a sold-out stadium—it’s very hard to explain what it’s like, because that atmosphere is massive. All of those people are there watching you. You’ve got those 80,000 pairs of eyes on you, but then you’ve got the world, the television, all watching that 15 seconds of your race.”
While McCracken is busy preparing for another track season and planning ahead for as many Paralympics as his body may allow, Malone is looking forward to applying the knowledge he acquired from his days as a champion para-athlete. “To me, it’s more about using technology to tell a story of overcoming human adversity and showing that the human body can’t really be broken, but only improved and iterated upon,” he says.
In other words, it’s about being the fastest on wheels, blades, or on one’s own two. As Malone and McCracken continue to shatter records and the distinction between able-bodied and differently abled evaporates, “athlete” will be the only descriptor that remains.
PHOTOGRAPHS STEVEN KLEIN
FASHION CARINE ROITFELD
CREATIVE DIRECTION THE STYLE COUNCIL
SET DESIGN ANDREA STANLEY
PRODUCTION LOLA PRODUCTION
POST-PRODUCTION BY D-TOUCH NY
prev link: https://www.crfashionbook.com/mens/a16749803/liam-malone-rheed-mccracken-para-athletes-cr-mens-issue-6/
createdAt:Wed, 07 Feb 2018 20:22:39 +0000
displayType:Long Form Article