It was a long and challenging road to Tokyo for the 23 year old, with multiple lockdowns, quarantines and of course the cancellation of last year’s Olympics, but one well worth the pain with Ria securing what was deemed an unlikely bronze medal in the women’s quadruple sculls.
With 500 metres remaining in the final race, Ria and team mates Rowena Meredith, Harriet Hudson and Caitlin Cronin, stormed home to snatch third place from Germany - behind China and Poland - in what commentators described as a “fairytale finish”.
In a perfect world Dad Craig and Mum Kerri would have been in Japan cheering Ria on. Instead they watched from their Point Lonsdale lounge room.
“We’ve been at 99.9 per cent of all of her major races, even the overseas ones,” Craig said.
“As a parent, it’s really disappointing and tough not to be there, but that’s just part of the world we live in at the moment, and a lot of people have had it a lot worse than us being locked down in Lonnie.”
Ria, a 2019 World U/23 single sculls champion, had been in training at the National Rowing Centre in Penrith when the COVID-19 national emergency was declared.
“They were in lockdown like everyone else and not allowed to row for that period so she came home with a car full of gym equipment and trained on the back deck,” said Craig.
Her “most important” training partner, a Border Collie puppy named Tokum, was by her side the entire time.
Raised in Woodend and schooled in Melbourne, Ria was to have commenced a Doctorate of Medicine at Queensland University, but when last year’s Olympics were postponed, put her studies on hold.
Tokyo was her Olympic debt. She flew back into Australia and straight into a further 14 days of quarantine.
“The hurdles that they’ve had to overcome just to get there have been immense, but the whole way through the entire team has been incredibly resilient and just made it happen,” Craig said.