New rivalry emerges as Australia’s Deon Kenzie takes on world record holder at Paralympic Games

Australia’s Deon Kenzie won’t be content until he’s won 1,500m gold at the Paralympic Games, but he’ll have to outrun the newest world record holder, Nate Riech of Canada.

Deon Kenzie has been a world champion, but won’t be content until he’s won gold at the Paralympic Games.

Key points:

Deon Kenzie is among the favourites in the T38 1,500mHe will have to beat world record holder Nate Riech to win goldRiech has broken world records in both the T38 800m and 1,500m

The 25-year-old Tasmanian, who has cerebral palsy, competes in the T38 category in the 1,500m and is no stranger to success.

A household name on the track, Kenzie won gold at the 2017 World Para Athletics Championships in London.

But he’s yet to finish first on the Paralympic stage, winning silver at the Games in Rio five years ago.

His battle for gold has long been against Tunisian runner Abbes Saidi.

Look back at all the action from day nine of the Tokyo Paralympics with our blog

Saidi won gold ahead of Kenzie in Rio before Kenzie outran the veteran Tunisian one year later to win his first gold at the world championships.

Tunisia’s Abbes Saidi (left) was too strong for Kenzie at the Rio Paralympic Games.(Getty Images: Matthew Stockman)

But with 38-year-old Saidi not running in Tokyo, a new rivalry has emerged for Kenzie, this time with Canada’s Nate Riech.

“He ran our world record of 3:47.89 earlier this year,” Kenzie told the ABC ahead of his race.

“However, there’s a few guys who will certainly be in the mix but it’s hard to tell what shape they’re in as they haven’t run official races since COVID.”

Kenzie said the T38 category had progressed a lot over the last five years, with the world record time for the event shortening by about 20 seconds.

Paralympics essentials:

Medal tallyHow to watchHow the Paralympics classifications work

Riech breaks world record, twice

Riech stormed onto the scene three years ago and currently holds the world record in both the T38 800m and 1,500m.

Canadian Paralympian Nate Riech is the current world record holder in the T38 1500m.(Getty Images: Moto Yoshimura)

Hit on the head with a golf ball when he was just 10-years-old, Riech suffered a brain injury and partial paralysis on his right side.

After years of training against able-bodied athletes, the Canadian started participating in para-athletics in 2018.

He won the T38 1,500m at his first world championships in Dubai in 2019.

In just two years, the 26-year-old has shattered world records in both the 1,500m and 800m events, breaking his own 1,500m world record in May this year.

But Kenzie said he’s confident he’s trained hard enough to challenge his newest rival.

“I’m certainly in contention to win the gold medal but there’s four to five other guys who are going to be in the mix,” he said.

“It’s really just about focusing on the process and what I can control, then executing that well.

“If I do that right then the results will take care of itself.”

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‘Breaking the four-minute barrier’

When Kenzie won gold in London, he stormed out to the front with just over a lap to go and never looked back.

He did this to create a more difficult race for his competitors, increasing the speed early and trusting he could hold on to win, clocking a time of 4:06.68.

However, he said he’s not sure he’ll use the same strategy in Tokyo.

“I certainly want it to be a tough race. I think that way I can walk away knowing I’ve gave it everything,” he said.

Deon Kenzie leads the pack in the T38 1500m at the World Para Athletics Championships at London Stadium in 2017.(Getty Images: Kieran Galvin)

“In saying that, front running a whole race can also be very tough when there’s other guys who are running similar times.”

While he’s yet to run as fast as Riech, Kenzie said he’s as close as he’s ever been ahead of his race in Tokyo.

“Breaking the four-minute barrier by running 3:55.09 in March this year gave me the confidence of knowing that the work I had done would put me in good standing leading into Tokyo,” he said.

The men’s T38 1,500m heat is scheduled for Friday with the final to be run on Saturday night.

Australia’s Deon Kenzie won’t be content until he’s won 1,500m gold at the Paralympic Games, but he’ll have to outrun the newest world record holder, Nate Riech of Canada.

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