Profile of Ryan Riehl|
by Sara Dorken for WakeSports Canada (July 2008)
Riehl is Canada's first visually impaired member of the adaptive
development team. Water skiing became his passion after much dedication
and a life full of experiences that prepared him both physically and
mentally for his time as a national level athlete.
Since the age of 7, Ryan has had his feet in a pair of skis. The first
were snow skis, where he learned basic skills like balance and agility that
he now applies to his water skiing technique. When Ryan was 9 he began to
lose his vision as a result of a tumour growing on his optic nerves. Despite
many surgeries his vision is permanently gone. Although many would see this
in a negative light, Ryan sees this as an advantage as he now remembers what
things looked like and he is able to visualize what is described to him.
At 22 years old, Ryan began adaptive water skiing with the Saskatoon
Water Ski Club where he continues to train today. His background as a
visually impaired downhill skier has made him comfortable with the fact that
he can't see what he is skiing towards and therefore has to use his other
senses to guide him. This has helped him adapt quickly to and succeed in
Ryan got into adaptive water skiing when a friend of his met one of his
current coaches, LeRoss Calnek, who was looking to get more visually
impaired people on water skis. His friend was asked if he knew of anyone
interested in trying adaptive water skiing. Ryan was invited to participate
and has been involved ever since.
To stay in shape for the water ski season Ryan meets with his coaches
close to once per week to work on his body positioning techniques. Between
meetings with his coaches he does a daily workout on equipment he has in the
home he shares with his guide dog Eddie. During the ski season Ryan manages
to get on the water on a regular basis with his coaches to work on his
Last season saw Ryan winning gold medals in both tricks and slalom at the
adaptive nationals in Winnipeg, Manitoba. As Canada's first visually
impaired member of the national adaptive team, he hopes to take the
successes of last season and turn that into other podium performances at the
adaptive nationals again this season. He is also looking forward to adding
jumps to his performance this year.
When he's not water skiing, Ryan spends his time working at a local
restaurant. He is grateful for their support and non-discriminatory
practices and hopes to continue working there into the future.
Ryan credits his parents with encouraging him to try new things, and
pushing him to succeed in all that he does. His supportive family, his drive
to succeed and his independence all come into play in explaining Ryan's past
accomplishments in adaptive waterskiing. With a stretch and a prayer as
pre-competition staples, Ryan continues to impress on the national stage by
coming up big in big competitions. Hoping to increase his on-water practice
time this season, we should be seeing great passes and even better results
from this motivated, hard-working competitor.