As a kid, Nathan Riech’s athletic dreams didn’t include running. Though his parents both excelled in track and field, Riech took a different path. From a young age Riech aspired to be a major league baseball star. He was well on his way, but at the age of 10 life threw him an unexpected curve ball while playing golf with friends back in 2005.
“I remember hearing the sound of the driver and the next thing I knew I had this tingling sensation going all through my body, on the right side of my body. I saw the ball bounce in a weird direction and I knew it had hit me.”
A stray ball had struck him in the head, and by the time Riech got to the hospital paralysis had set in through his right side.
“I didn’t fully grasp what exactly was going on….so the doctor told me you’ll never walk without a limp and you’ll never play competitive sports.”
Riech was diagnosed with a brain injury, and the news that his right hand, shoulder and leg would never work the same again brought on added challenges. Nathan was bullied, couldn’t tie his shoe, and talked with a severe stutter.
With something to prove Super Nate picked up running in Grade 8, and joined a running club. From running club to competing in Division 1 college track, Riech climbed the ranks until two years ago, the dual citizen sought Paralympic training. he moved from Arizona to Victoria for the elite program offered by Athletics Canada.
The 25-year-old has taken a huge stride forward since making the move, bursting on to the international scene with two world records in the 800 and 1500 metres, and now has his sights set on Tokyo 2020. Gareth Sanford, a physiologist for Athletics Canada, says Riech is extremely dedicated to training hard.
“He’s extremely relaxed and interested in what science can offer, but also clear about what he needs and what he wants in his support team.”
Nathan doesn’t just want to measure his success off of his performance in Tokyo. Down the road, Nathan is striving to be one of the best in para-athletics that Canada has ever seen.
“I want to be one of the best Paralympic athletes of all time, and more importantly I want to move the Paralympic movement forward. ”
With the games fast approaching, Riech will train hard to make sure he’s on the top step come August.