Making The Paralympic Team Is Next Up In Surging Career Of Sprinter Noah Malone
by Stuart Lieberman
Noah Malone in action at the 2019 World Para Athletics Junior Championship in Nottwil, Switzerland.
Noah Malone, a visually impaired sprinter on scholarship on the Indiana State University track team, is ready to make a statement this summer.
Malone is a man of few words, and when he says something, it is carefully crafted with intended purpose. He prefers to let his running do the talking for him, instead.
Ranked No. 1 in the world in the 100-meter T12, Malone, the son of former collegiate sprinter Kyle Malone, has already sprinted the distance in 10.66 seconds earlier this spring. That time would have won him gold at the Paralympic Games Rio 2016.
“I always had that goal and vision that I wanted to do something like go to the Paralympics, especially coming off of worlds in Dubai two years ago,” he said. “To bring home a gold medal from the Paralympics is definitely at the top of my list. The icing on the cake with that will be breaking a world record, too.”
In 2015, Malone was diagnosed with Leber hereditary optic neuropathy (LHON), a genetic disorder that affects the optic nerve and caused him to lose most of his sight. But that didn’t deter his plans on the track; he has since gone on to win two medals at the 2019 World Para Athletics Junior Championships, including gold in the 100 and 200, and two medals at the 2019 Parapan American Games, including gold in the 4x100.
To cap off that year of international success, Malone helped Team USA make history at the 2019 senior world championships. He ran the leadoff leg of the 4x100 universal relay, setting the pace for what became Team USA’s first gold medal in that event. Malone also advanced to the semifinals in the 100.
Malone may be from the biggest basketball state in the country — the sport was too fast-paced for him once he started losing his vision — but the Indiana Association of Track and Cross-Country Coaches’ choice for 2020 Mr. Track and Field is more than happy to carve out his own niche as a sprinter. Malone set several records at Hamilton Southeastern High School in his hometown of Fishers, Indiana.
Entering this month’s U.S. Paralympic Team Trials for Track and Field in Minneapolis the 19-year-old has nothing to lose and is excited to be competing together with one of his best friends, world junior champion and two-time Parapan American Games medalist Ezra Frech. They are two faces of the future for Team USA, and while Frech is just 16, Malone looks up to him as one of his role models and inspirations.
“I have tons of friends in the Para world whose stories are just remarkable,” Malone said.
Off the track, Malone is working toward a career in sports communications and appreciates any art form that portrays good storytelling. One of his hobbies is customizing shoes, using the power of storytelling to be creative and design the look and feel of a shoe. He also appreciates a well thought out playlist, with his favorite lyrics coming from Drake, Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole.
“I could probably spend all day listening to and finding new music,” he said.
Other than having to wear a mask, Malone’s training was not altered at all during the COVID-19 pandemic. Indiana State kept its track and weight room open for athletes and he has been competing in track meets every week. Coached by Anthony Bertoli, he hasn’t worried too much about his specific times during training, but rather has focused on executing a workout or a sprint. Bertoli is expected to travel to both Minneapolis and Tokyo with Malone after all the effort they have put in together at Indiana State.
“It definitely means a lot to me to show that someone who’s visually impaired can compete at the Division I level,” he said.
Stuart Lieberman covered Paralympic sports for three years at the International Paralympic Committee, including at the London 2012 and Sochi 2014 Games. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.