Paralympic Champion, Naomi Riches MBE, joins Row Britannia
Born in 1983, Naomi Riches was just 8 weeks old when she was diagnosed with a visual impairment. Her parents knew immediately that this would throw up many challenges and difficulties; however they didn’t realise then that their child would not let her disability stand in her way. At the age of 12, Naomi was National Disabled Swimming Champion.
During her years in mainstream school in Middlesex, Naomi was severely bullied for her impairment yet she stuck to her dream which was to be an artist. She attended the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) College in Worcester (where she took up rowing) and graduated from Buckinghamshire New University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in metalwork and jewellery design.
In 2004, Naomi was offered the chance to join Great Britain’s Adaptive Rowing Team, she seized this opportunity. Finally, this was something she could do because of her visual limitation rather than being told she couldn’t because of it.
Shortly after competing in her first World Championship in 2004, Naomi was involved in a horrific road traffic accident. This left her with multiple fractures including skull fractures and broken ribs, she spent a week in an induced comas. Naomi’s recovery was based on her overwhelming desire to compete at the 2005 World Rowing Championships, which she did winning the Gold Medal.
Over the next ten years Para-rowing developed into a full time Lottery Funded Paralympic Sport. Naomi competed in the Mixed Coxed Four winning six World Championship Gold Medals, a Paralympic Bronze Medal in Beijing and at the London 2012 Games she became Paralympic Champion.
As a result of the success in London, Naomi and her crew were awarded MBEs in February 2013.
Throughout her career Naomi has faced various challenges, as all athletes do, but her determination along with her ability to adapt and to see the positives in the world around her has kept her fighting.
In 2013 Naomi retired from International Rowing, she is now motivating and inspiring others with her incredible story.
In 2016, Naomi became the first woman to row the length of the River Thames and completed the challenge in under 48hours.
We are delighted Naomi has joined Row Britannia. Naomi will be visiting Buckinghamshire New University and Royal Holloway - University of London.