Calgary teenager Riley White overcomes physical disability to become national wrestling champion
Riley White was born with radial hypoplasia, a condition that affects the growth in his right arm and thumb. When he was young, doctors told his parents he’d be lucky to dress himself and tie his own shoes, let alone play sports.
“The radial hypoplasia causes my wrists to turn inwards and I don’t have as much grip,” White said “It really hasn’t stopped me from doing anything.”
That is an understatement. In Grade 8, White took up wrestling and now, as an 11th grader at Crescent Heights High School, he’s already become a national champion and is looking forward to testing his skills against the world’s best.
“All of my classmates and friends are pretty excited and proud of me and so are all of the teachers,” the 16-year-old said. “I’ve come to be known as the champ of Crescent Heights.”
Later in May, White will compete in the cadet Pan Am Games in Guatemala City, and possibly the world championships and junior Olympics this summer.
White’s parents, Michael and Deb, are amazed at their son’s accomplishments. They love watching him compete and are proud he’s never been injured.
“He’s always been a really tough kid and always been able to overcome diversity,” Michael said. “He really works hard for what he wants and it’s never hindered him for anything.”
Michelle Hayden-Ritco is White’s coach at Crescent Heights High School. She says he spends 40 hours a week mastering his wrestling moves and she’s excited to see what level he reaches.
“Possibly Olympic training?” Hayden-Ritco said. “We’re all very excited to see this path that he’s on because it’s not going to end at Pan Am Games.”
Travelling around the world to compete in wrestling also comes with a huge price tag for parents.
“At this level there isn’t any government funding or anything so it falls back on the families to be able to support and send him to these things,” Michael said “It’s a huge cost to be able to do. We’re thankful to anybody that’s able to help him and support him and maybe be inspired by him.”
White has played a variety of sports growing up, and he’s even driving himself to wrestling practice after school and on weekends.
“Nothing has really been affected that much. People do look at me different but I can do anything they can.”
A GoFundMe page has been started to make sure the cost of travelling to international events isn’t another obstacle White has to overcome.
As of Monday afternoon, almost $2,000 had been raised to support his dream of one day being an Olympic champion.
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