Nate Riech follows bloodlines to the top

Canadian Paralympic Committee

August 21, 2021

World champion blossoms in running

Riech action

At age 10, a freak accident changed Nate Riech’s world. He was playing golf with some friends and a player from another group whacked a ball from 150 yards away which accidently hit Riech in the back of his head.

He was diagnosed with a brain injury which affected the right side of his body.

‘’My mother told me I was going to be fine but it’s going to be really tough, and that it was,’’ said Riech, the current world record holder in the T38 1500m. ‘’So I just kind of prepared myself for a lot of therapy and I was in the hospital for about three weeks.

‘’I never thought I was going to get paralyzed, that wasn’t in my plans. But you get these speed bumps and you have to take them as they come. Para athletes are so good adapting to things that have happened to them.’’

With a rich family background in sports excellence, Riech was just as ambitious to follow in the footsteps of his mother Ardin Tucker, a former Canadian pole vault champion and his father Todd Riech, who competed at the 1996 Olympics for the U.S. in the javelin. His grandfather is former NHLer Jim Harrison.

In grade six he started running competitively and discovered a great talent for the sport winning several meets.
‘’I just remember thinking to myself like ‘wow I feel different when I run.’ Like it’s an out of body experience and I’m just floating. I thought maybe this could be a career.’’

And what a career it’s been. In July 2018, he burst on the international scene when he won two races in world record time at a meet in Berlin. Just a few days later he was at the national championships in Ottawa, where he told media his goal was to one day win a Paralympic gold medal.

Since then he has broken the world record several times, including this summer, and claimed gold at the 2019 World Para Athletics Championships. 

Riech says his mother and stepfather keep him grounded.

“They’ve played important but different roles,’’ he said. ‘’My mom is more the disciplinarian and kind of the tough one. My stepdad is a best friend and father figure and he seems to know when to pull each hat.’’

In his incredible journey, Riech understands that the future can be unpredictable.

‘’Failure is not a destination and you don’t have to stay there,’’ he said. ‘’You just have to pick yourself up and go and get after it.’’

For more stories about Canada’s Tokyo 2020 Paralympians, visit

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