Retired Paralympics star Liam Malone has revealed his next move.
The 24-year-old announced his retirement from the sport yesterday, less than 18 months after becoming one of the stars of the 2016 Paralympics with two golds and a silver on the track.
He will begin a new job with Auckland company Soul Machines – a high tech firm which is doing groundbreaking work in humanising artificial intelligence.
Soul Machines has been working with IBM on a human-like avatar named Rachel using emotional cognitive intelligence to recognise and respond to human needs and emotions.
Rachel works as an "augmented human", providing customer service and a consultation service in replacement of a real person.
Malone will join the business development team.
"That's going to be a whole new learning experience for me and a whole new challenge," Malone told Newstalk ZB.
"Going into this job is going to be working with people who a similar to professional athletes but in a different domain of humanity, all very talented and hard-working people who will be no doubt displaying those same characteristics."
Malone is retiring from the sport after a stunning performance at the Paralympics in Brazil two years ago. He won the T44 200m and T44 400m finals as well as claiming a silver medal in the T44 100m event.
Malone said he made the "difficult" decision due to a number of factors, but ultimately lacked the motivation to continue in the sport in the countdown to the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games.
"Retiring was a tough decision to make but I think ultimately the right one to move forward," Malone told Newstalk ZB.
"I've done so many things in this last year, and I think it's really important to focus on doing a few things really well in life. I'll definitely be a vocal supporter of the Paralympics but I won't be going to participate in another event or anything.
"It's tough but in life you sometimes have to make really tough decisions and it's better to do that then be in a state of ambivalence," he added.
Malone had both legs amputated below the knee when he was 18 months old, being born with a fibular hemimelia – in which part or all of the fibula bone is missing.
Malone took up athletics while studying at the University of Canterbury in 2014.
The following year he made his international debut, finishing fifth and sixth in the T43 100m and 200m respectively.
He made his name on the top stage in 2016, securing double gold and a pair of Paralympic records in the T44 200m and 400m, and claimed a silver in the T44 100m.
The 24-year-old had recently engaged with High Performance Sport New Zealand (HPSNZ) in their Goldmine initiative to develop new blades for the Tokyo 2020 Games, but this project will be put on hold.
Athletics New Zealand chief executive Hamish Grey praised the impact Malone made on the sport in New Zealand in a short time, and congratulated Malone on his career.
"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".