Hearing from Paralympic rower Naomi Riches

Recently, some of us went along to see our friends at the Rotary Club of Oxford Spires, who were having a talk from Gold medal-winning Paralympic rower Naomi Riches.

Naomi’s talk, titled ‘Just because I can’, told about her journey from winning Gold at the London 2012 Paralympics, to rowing all 165 miles of the River Thames for charity IN-vision to her future challenges and settling back into ‘normal’ life. It was inspiring!

At just 8 weeks old she was diagnosed with a rare eye condition call Cone Dystrophy, with no functioning cones on her retina she has no colour vision and is extremely light sensitive. She also has Nystagmus which makes it hard to focus, particularly on moving objects as her eyes are involuntarily and constantly moving. After struggling in school, especially in sports with moving objects such as football and tennis, Naomi discovered adaptive rowing whilst at university and didn’t look back. She went on to win 6 World Championship Titles, a Bronze at the Beijing Games and a Gold in London.

Since becoming a patron of IN-vision in 2014, she was looking for a challenge and rowing the full 165 miles of the River Thames was just that! The row became a World Record attempt to become the fastest woman to row a single scull down the Thames. IN-vision is a charity which aims to raise awareness for and fund research into Nystagmus, an eye condition that affects around 1 in 1000. You can find out more about their work here: https://in-vision.org.uk/

After a huge amount of organisation, preparation and training, Naomi managed to row the entire length of the river in 47 hours, 59 minutes and 54 seconds, a fantastic achievement! In the time since, she’s managed to raise a huge amount of money for the charity and is still going. You can find out more about the row and make a donation by going to The Great Thames Row website.


Following her sporting success and the Great Thames Row, Naomi has been using what she has learnt to motivate, inspire and enable others as well as seeking out new challenges. She certainly motivated and inspired us during her speech and it was great to learn about her challenges. It just goes to show that even if something holds you back, if you put your mind to it, you can achieve anything!