OTTAWA – Para runner Nathan Riech showed why he set two world records this past weekend at the Berlin Grand Prix with an impressive victory Wednesday evening in the men’s 1500m in Para athletics action at the 2018 Canadian Track and Field Championships.
With the oppressive heat and humidity enveloping the Nation’s Capital and just off the plane from Europe, Riech still clocked four minutes and 00.45 seconds to stave off a strong challenge from Guillaume Ouellet of Victoriaville, second in 4:02.52.
‘’I’m definitely a little tired from getting back last night but this is what I’ve wanted to do my entire life so I’m taking advantage of it,’’ said Riech, 23. ‘’My goal is to win a Paralympic gold medal and you have to race in all situations and all conditions to achieve that.’’
Riech has an impressive family background. It includes his mother Ardin Tucker, a former Canadian pole vault champion and his father Todd, who competed at the 1996 Olympics for the U.S. in the javelin.
His grandfather is former NHLer Jim Harrison.
‘’My grandad calls me after every race and he is very involved,’’ said Riech, a communications graduate. “I went to a meet with him last year and it was really cool to have that experience. He really supports me and I often visit him.’’
Still, his mother is the biggest influence in Riech’s life. He suffered a brain injury at age 10 when he was hit by a golf ball. He is paralyzed on the right side of his body.
‘’My mom drove me to physio for eight years, three times a week,’’ said Riech. ‘’She always believed in me even when the doctors told me I would never do competitive sports again.’’
‘’She is the main reason why I chose to compete for Canada instead of the U.S.’’
Ouellet, the visually impaired 5000m world champion in 2015, was excited to face Canada’s newest para athletics star head-on.
‘’I was really excited to face Nathan in this race,’’ he said. ‘’Even though we are not in the same category, it’s a race and I still wanted to beat him. I decided to wait until the last 300m to make my move, but it was too late. He was gone. This was a great experience for me.”
In the 5000m wheelchair races, Alexandre Dupont of Clarenceville, Que., took the men’s title clocking 11 minutes and 30.26 seconds while Jessica Frotten of Whitehorse was tops for the women in 12:33.45.
Dupont had only started training again the past three weeks after injuring his left shoulder a day before the London Marathon this past spring when he swerved to avoid a car.
‘’I pretty much played it easy and didn’t push too hard,’’ said Dupont, the 1500m wheelchair gold medallist at the Commonwealth Games this past April. ‘’The shoulder felt good except when I started to accelerate I felt some pain.’’
Frotten, who battled back and forth with veteran Diane Roy of Sherbrooke, Que., admitted that the stifling conditions made it one of the toughest races of her career.
‘’It’s definitely up there,’’ said Frotten, a triple medallist last month at the Swiss Grand Prix. ‘’I didn’t have anything left in the tank. I felt like a marshmallow out there.’’
Para athletics competition continues through to Friday in Ottawa.