Riley Mann: Against All Odds
Riley Mann is certainly making a name for himself in the world of athletics.
The 18-year-old from North Lakes has competed locally, at state and national level and now internationally. Mann will be competing at the Virtus Global Games in France as a T20 athlete (an athlete with an intellectual impairment) where he is hoping to beat his own personal best time in the 400m.
“I love the 400m. I get to run smooth and fast and hopefully win.”
For Riley Mann athletics, in particular running, is a big part of his life. It’s no surprise when his passion for the sport has seen him compete locally, nationally and soon to be on an international level. Mann will be competing as a T20 athlete (an athlete with an intellectual impairment) at the Virtus Global Games in France from June 4-10. Despite missing out on qualifying for the World Para Athletics Championships, the 18-year-old is still on a mission to beat his personal best in the 400m. It’s another step in the right direction toward his ultimate goal of competing in the Olympics.
Mann, who hails from North Lakes, has been competing in athletics since he was 10-years-old. He first made it to nationals in 2016 competing in the 800m and since then has competed at national athletics nearly every year. Mann competed in his first multi class competition as a T20 athlete in March 2022 at the Queensland Athletics Championships where he took on fellow Queenslander and Paralympian (also his friend!) Alberto Campbell over 400m. It seems it’s made him even more determined to succeed.
Mann’s start in athletics first began when he was in primary school with his physical education teacher, aptly named Ms Riley, encouraging him to explore the sport even further. Now eight-and-a-half years and a swag of medals later, Mann is very much ingrained in the athletics field. While he’s taken part in hurdles and covered multiple distances in running, Mann does have a favourite and he spends a lot of time in training.
“I love the 400m,” he says. “I get to run smooth and fast and hopefully win. “I train five days a week. I’m out training on the track three days a week and on recovery days I do warm up exercises and then things like jumping or hopping and try to keep myself in that training mode.”
While he loves hitting the running track, it seems there’s more to Mann than just sprinting towards that finishing line. Last year was a big year for him with loads of success including:
Competed at states for swimming, athletics and cross country.
Competed at nationals and gaining medals in athletics and cross country.
Also competed twice for Australia - in Mackay winning silver and then competing at the Oceania Asia Games in Brisbane receiving two silver and two gold.
You could almost say Mann was born to be an athlete. His mum Amie has always been sporty and currently plays soccer, while his father was also a runner. Like most mums, Amie is quite the fan of her son and super proud of his achievements.
“I think it's just incredible to watch him be him and do the amazing things that he's out there doing,” Amie says. “I love watching him show others what he’s capable of.
“So he is currently ranked second in 800m and second in hurdles in the world. He's 800th of a second off the world record in the hurdles.
“So to be as good as he's been has really given him a sense of purpose and accomplishment and he works hard for it.”
Given the success Mann has been able to achieve, did his family ever expect him to get to this point?
“Like any parent, I just wanted him to be happy and healthy,” Amie says. “Everything else that’s happened for him along the way, which he has worked hard for, it’s been the icing on the cake, the bonus.
“So when he started running, he was the kid that in the first couple of years at his primary school athletics carnival, would run and he’d stop and wave before he’d keep running. And it was just like a casual little stroll job type of a run. And then one year out of nowhere, it was like, bang it all changed.
“And we were a little bit stunned thinking what just happened? Where did that come from? That was the year that his PE teacher came up to me and said, ‘oh my God, Riley's really, really good at running. You should get him into little athletics’. And it was that summer that we got him into running and he hasn’t really looked back.”
Mann has quite the memory, especially when it comes to recalling qualifying times.
“For the A-qualifier it’s 47.95 seconds and the B is 48.90,” Mann says. My personal best is 50.460, so about one-and-a-half seconds off. I’m hoping to at least get to the 50 second mark, I just need to push harder.”
“He’s someone who runs for a chocolate as his coach says,” Amie adds with a laugh. “If he knows he’s going to get something at the end and if he’s fastest, he’s okay.”
While his biggest focus has been on the Virtus Global Games, Mann is already looking ahead to the future. His biggest aim is to get to the 2032 Olympics in Brisbane. But that’s not all!
“I also want to make it to Los Angeles and Paris next year,” Mann says. “But after I compete in France I’m going to have a break for about six weeks, or as long as my coach Gary Patterson lets me have off.
“I’ll probably still do some running because I can’t just stop, but it won’t be as much training as what I normally do every week.”
In his “spare time” and when he takes a break from running, Mann also likes to dabble in video games and hanging out with friends, some he has made through athletics. It seems there’s no slowing him down!
Mann has also been raising funds so he can compete in the Virtus Global Games. If you can help in any way, please visit https://gofund.me/d255cd7d.