Neil Riding loves to run away, now runs for gold
PROVO—Former Ephraim resident Neil Riding sprinted his way to two gold medals at the 48th Annual Special Olympics Utah Summer Games held this month at Provo High School.
While a big achievement, it was in a way nothing too new for 22-year-old: Riding has been running his whole life.
“He has been running since he was a little boy— running away,” said Neil’s mother, Margaret Riding, who still resides in Ephraim. “That’s what they called him in elementary school: a ‘runner.’”
This is Neil Riding’s second year of Special Olympics competition. Last year, it was basketball in the Winter Games. On June 2, he took first in the 25- and 50-meter runs.
“I think all those years of running away from the parents gave him a slight advantage,” Neil’s brother, Kirk Riding, said after hearing of his wins.
Neil Riding, who now lives in an assisted-living house for the disabled in Orem, has been training for the Special Olympics by doing what he loves most. Every evening, Neil runs laps on the track near his home.
While Neil’s love for running is no secret, his passion stood out during the Special Olympics opening ceremony’s parade of athletes. While all other participants walked, Neil Riding, charged with excitement, sprinted ahead of them.
“He thought that was the way to go,” Neil’s step-father, Van Riding, said. “He was wanting to run, so he took off running.”
The product of an 18-child blended family, Neil has been the glue keeping everyone together, Margaret Riding said. His family encourages him by attending his Special Olympics events whenever they can.
His house manager, Nancy Pomeroy, said running is not his only passion.
“He is learning to write better,” Pomeroy said. “He will sit at the table for hours, tracing letters and practicing.”
Neil Riding lives in the house with three others who have various disabilities. Pomeroy, who works with Chrysalis, a support organization for people with disabilities, said she does basically what a parent would: take them to the doctor, teach them to clean, and organize family activities.
Pomeroy said that, considering his Down syndrome, Neil is unusually athletic and coordinated.
“The bottom line is that the kid is an athlete,” Pomeroy said. “He is already getting ready for next year, yelling ‘Training! Training! Running! Running!’ before he goes to the track to practice.”
Next year, Neil Riding is looking forward to competing in javelin throwing—and, of course, running.