Australian sprinter Riley Day has always dreamt of being an Olympian. But with no sponsors to help her compete in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the 21-year-old worked at a grocery store to save money.
Riley’s running career began when she was nine years old. No stranger to the big stage, she competed in the 200 meters at the 2017 World Championships and 2018 Commonwealth Games.
Riley qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, but no one sponsored her, so she had to think of ways to support herself. To save money, she began working part-time at the Australian supermarket Woolworths.
And after three years of working at the store, Riley finally fulfilled her Olympic dreams!
The world watched Riley as she competed in the 200-meter women’s event. The young athlete qualified for the semi-finals, but she failed to earn a spot in the finals. She came in fourth behind Jamaican star Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce.
During competition day, Woolworths posted on their LinkedIn to wish Riley good luck.
“We’re proud to see one of our team members represent Australia on the world stage,’ they wrote. “Good luck Riley, we can’t wait to see you on the track!”
The supermarket chain also shared a photo of Riley with John, a 90-year-old visually impaired customer whom Riley helps with his weekly shopping. She even calls him on Sundays whenever he doesn’t show up for his weekly shop.
Despite failing to make it to the finals, Riley is proud of herself, and she has every right tox—her hard work is the reason she was able to come to Tokyo at all. Plus, she beat her personal record at 22.56 seconds and notched the eighth fastest time for an Australian woman in the event.
Riley was able to do this by training three hours a day, six days a week, all while working at the grocery store.
While speaking to Channel 7 post-race, the visibly pumped Riley couldn’t contain her emotions.
“Holy s**t! That was a much better race than this morning,” she told Bruce McAvaney. “I’ve got my groove. Now I hope it’s the fastest heat so I can get in the final. Because that is a massive PB. That’s awesome. I want to be the best and nothing is going to stop me from being the best.”
Without a sponsor to plug, Riley just urged people to follow her on Instagram.
“I mean, if you do want to follow my story, my Instagram is _rileyday, that is where I post most of my stuff,” she said. “So, if you want to follow along, that is where it is.”
And follow her, they did. Riley only had 21,000 followers before the interview, and at the time of writing, it’s now up to 106,000!
Channel 7’s Jason Richardson made sure to emphasize the lack of corporate sponsorships for Riley in hopes that an Australian company or business would assume the role.
“I’m going to embarrass you, we want Australia to start supporting you,” he said. “You’re working at Woolies in the produce section. I know you do the shopping for John who’s 90 and he can’t see, and you do that every week. You’ve got a big heart, you don’t have a sponsor. C’mon Australia, get behind this young lady!”
Hopefully, Riley gets the support she deserves so she can compete at the Paris 2024 Olympics. Getting sponsored will allow her to focus better on her training and increase her chances of hunting down a medal.
Riley has promised to continue working at Woolworths while studying for a business degree in sports management at Griffith University.
Congratulations, Riley Day!