Running champion Nate Riech has no plans of slowing down

Canadian Paralympic Committee

July 13, 2023

Sport helped Paralympic gold medallist test his limits and gain confidence

Nate Riech 2023

TORONTO – The years following his accident were not easy for world and Paralympic middle distance running champion Nate Riech. The memories still linger for the 28-year-old of the teasing he was subjected to in school and the insensitivity of his classmates towards his challenge.

‘’I look back at that 10-year-old kid who was super insecure, who got made fun of every time I read out loud in class because he stuttered, stammered, who dropped his lunch every day because his right arm didn’t work,” said Riech earlier this year at the Canadian Paralympic Committee’s content summit.

The condition was caused by a freak accident that changed Riech’s world at age 10. He was playing golf with some friends and a player from another group whacked a ball from 150 yards away which hit Reich in the back of his head. He was diagnosed with a brain injury which affects the right side of his body.

The initial doctor’s prospects were not good for a sports career. The doctor obviously didn’t check his background. Riech comes from one of the greatest sports stocks in North America.

His father Todd Riech competed at the 1996 Olympics in javelin for the USA; his mother Ardin Tucker was a pole vaulter for Canada; his grandfather Jim Harrison played eight years in the NHL with the Maple Leafs, Blackhawks, and Bruins. And that’s just the cusp of his amazing family history in sports.

In high school and college, he ran against able-bodied competitors before exploding onto the Para athletics scene in 2018. That year, he won the 800m and 1500m Berlin Grand Prix in world record times. He’s been unbeatable ever since in the 1500m distance. In 2019, he took the world title and Parapan Am Games gold, and was crowned Paralympic champion in Tokyo in 2021.

There’s more bad news for his opponents at this week’s world championships in Paris. He has no intention of slowing down.

‘’For me motivation is easy, I just love training,” said Riech, who currently holds the world mark at 3:47.89 set in 2021 just before the Games. ‘’I just love getting up and testing my limits. I didn’t get in the sport to break word records. I got into it to see where my limit was, and I wanted to test that as much as I could.

‘’That’s still what I’m doing. I still haven’t found that limit yet…or at least I hope I haven’t.”

Riech doesn’t wait until his opponents are on the track before drawing his line in the sand.

‘’I love the mental game,” he said. “Definitely in the call room is really where it starts, I definitely like to play some games in there for sure. I like to get any edge that I can because you get nervous when there’s someone faster than you in the race.’’

His determination at a young age to prove doctors wrong and the support of a family that is ingrained with the ‘never give up’ tag in their DNA has led Riech to the top in his chosen event.

‘’Sports gave me that confidence,” he said. ‘’At some point I decided to bet on myself and that’s when all of a sudden I started running really well.”

Riech races his 1500m at worlds on Monday July 17 on the final night of competition.

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