You could say Victoria-based Nate Riech was born to be an athlete. It’s just in his genes.
His mom was a pole vaulter on Canada's national team. His dad was an American Olympian for javelin. His stepdad was a pitcher for the San Francisco Giants. His grandma represented Canada in equestrian. His grandfather played in the NHL for Toronto, Boston, Edmonton and Chicago.
There was no doubt that Nate would do something sporty, too. As a kid, he was an all-star baseball player. He played football and basketball, too. Every sport he did, he did well.
Until he was 10 years old. That’s when things changed.
While playing golf in Phoenix, Arizona, an errant ball struck Nate on the back of his head.
“I heard the crack of the ball meeting the face of the driver, and the next thing I knew my body started to get cold as a tingly sensation rushed throughout my body,” Nate says.
By the time he got to the hospital, Nate couldn’t move the right side of his body. Then he had a seizure.
“I never could have imagined how my life was going to change as I dragged my leg and limped into the emergency room.”
Nate’s skull was fractured, his right side paralyzed and his brain bleeding. He was in the hospital for nearly a month, going through intense physical therapy and relearning how to do everything with his left hand.
“The most frustrating and difficult thing to relearn was learning how to walk again,” he says. “Despite the struggle and the pain, right then in my 10-year-old head, I told myself that I was going to do everything in my power to get back to playing sports.”
Nate found running. For the kid who struggled to relearn how to walk, he soon found himself winning middle distance (400m-1600m) races.
He kept going. He continued to win meets in high school and signed on to run track at an American university, before finally moving to his roots in British Columbia.
“I’m so proud to be Canadian and I’m so glad to live in B.C.”
This summer, Nate won Canada’s first gold at the Parapan American Games, setting a Games-record time in the process.
“After I won gold at Parapan Ams, I received such an outpouring of support from B.C. – from home.”
Nate says when he got back to his cellphone, there were 300 notifications. Texts, emails and social media messages all congratulating him on his accomplishments on the track. “At first it was overwhelming,” he says. But soon it settled in.
Nate responded to every single message he received that day.
“As athletes, we put in so much work and that support got me so excited to represent Canada once more.”
You can help ensure athletes like Nate can access sport in British Columbia.