With the Winter Olympic Games kicking off in a matter of days, the countdown to non-stop sports coverage is on.
But two Paralympic athletes are helping to expose another side of the sporting world in the lead-up to the international event, posing shirtless for a candid, raw cover shoot that appears on the front of a men’s fashion magazine.
Australian medal-winner Rheed McCracken, 21, and Liam Malone, 24, appear on the front of the latest issue of CR Men’s Book, the brainchild of fashion favorite Carine Roitfeld, who chose the men especially for the shoot in order to show a more vulnerable, intellectual, and emotional side of the athletic world.
Stars: Carine Roitfeld has selected para-athletes Rheed McCracken (left) and Liam Malone (right) to appear on the sixth issue of CR Men’s Fashion Book ahead of the Winter Games
Inspired: CR Men’s Book editor Carine Roitfeld reveals she was inspired to learn more about the Paralympic Games after she was introduced to McCracken (pictured) and Malone
Getting personal: Roitfeld (pictured) used her personal mantra of ‘just doing it’ as the main theme of the issue
The former Vogue Paris editor says she was inspired to learn more about the Paralympic Games after she was introduced to McCracken and Malone, and shared that she couldn’t think of ‘any athletes more deserving of the cover than these two men’.
The two athletes have certainly reached the heights of sporting success, with both boasting multiple Paralympic medal wins in their past.
Liam won multiple gold medals for New Zealand at the 2016 Summer Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro, while Australian Rheed, took home silver and bronze medals in T34 athletics events at the 2012 London Games.
And both had to overcome serious adversity in order to achieve their success.
Malone was born with fibular hemimelia (absence of the bone) in both legs, and as a result, his legs were amputated below the knee when he was 18 months old.
But, he refuses to let any form of disability stop him from achieving his dreams – and from living life to the fullest.
‘The way I look at myself, and what I genuinely believe, is that I’m more able than most people,’ he said.
‘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?
Champion: Malone, 24, won multiple gold medals at the 2016 Games in Rio, where he is seen competing in the Men’s 400m T44 final
The best of the best: McCracken, seen competing in the Men’s 100m T34 final in Rio, won a silver and a bronze in the 2012 Paralympics
‘They in themselves provide me with opportunities. It just really hasn’t been a hindrance in my life.
‘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 springloaded blades, or by using one’s arms to propel a wheelchair doesn’t matter—as long as one crosses the finish line before anyone else.’
McCracken, meanwhile, was born with cerebral palsy and started using a wheelchair in 2009 as it made getting around less painful.
For him, the rush of representing his country in front of thousands of people helped him to power through to claim medals in the Paralympic Games – which he insists are just as competitive and skillful as any other sporting competition.
‘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,’ he said.
‘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.”
“I love being around the Paralympics environment, and I don’t look at this group as any different. I believe I compete at the highest level.”
Screen star: Stranger Things actor Dacre Montgomery (left) who plays Billy Hargrove in the hit Netflix show, and UFC fighter Mickey Gall also appear in the issue
The athletes’ stories clearly struck a chord with Roitfeld, who immediately invited the two men to New York for a shoot with photographer Steven Klein shortly after meeting them, with both guys featuring in their very own spread in the upcoming new issue of her men’s magazine in a piece entitled, ‘The Bionic Men’.
‘They are champions physically and mentally and their stories are incredibly inspiring,’ she added.
She also shared how they were at first hesitant to be labelled as anything other than ‘committed and accomplished athletes’, but this only convinced Roitfeld more that they were deserving of the coveted cover shoot.
‘Their resistance to categorization and their insistence on being valued purely on merit are qualities I find so admirable,’ she said.
Throughout the issue, out on March 1, Roitfeld and her team have also celebrated the dynamic mentor-mentee relationship of former NFL player Dale Moss and Special Olympics champion Danny Davila in a story titled ‘Can & Able’.
The issue also features UFC break-out star Mickey Gall and Stranger Things actor Dacre Montgomery shot by Mario Sorrenti.