Year 12 student Sadie Ridgway has been selected for Rowing Australia’s (RA) 2021 U21 Team. A skilful cox, Sadie is the only Queenslander and youngest person to make the team.

Sadie spoke to us about her transition from rowing novice to high-performing athlete and her dreams of representing Australia at the 2024 Paris Olympics.

“My rowing career began in the Somerville House Year 8 first Quad, coached by the great Dr Jeffrey Searle. His patience and excitement for the sport got me coming back for more in Year 9,” Sadie said.

“My dream has always been to make an Australian team and follow in the footsteps of my Dad,” she said.

Sadie was selected as cox for the 2021 U21 Australian Team after an outstanding performance at the Australian Rowing Championships earlier this year, where she coxed the Open Men’s Lightweight 8 to gold on Lake Barrington in Tasmania.

“Coxing is not just about results and hard work, but also about building relationships and developing respect. As a cox, there is a requirement for you to be the biggest and loudest person. So as a five-foot 17-year-old schoolgirl, I had to be very confident and back myself, my experience and my skill set,” Sadie said.

After getting her first glimpse of athletes wearing the green and gold in 2018, Sadie set herself the goal of representing Australia at the 2024 Olympics in Paris.

“I have loved the opportunity to work with the best that RA has to offer. A very recent goal I set for myself is to qualify for the 2024 Olympics. I am very lucky to share this goal with my brother, Archie, who is aiming to make the Australian Cross Country Team,” she said.

“We [U21 Australian Team] are full steam ahead to meet prognostic times in preparation for our regatta against the Olympic Team before they leave for Tokyo. In the meantime, I will be working hard on my studies to meet the ATAR goals I’ve set because anything is possible if you’re willing to work hard.”

“The saying ‘It takes a village’ is so true. I have received so much guidance and support on my pathway to achieving my dream. I am so thankful to know I have the backing of my family, friends, club, and state coaches going forward in this journey, and no matter what team or crew I am working with, I look forward to the experience and knowledge I will gain,” Sadie said.

“I can also thank my parents for sending me to a school where there are vast opportunities to find your passion,” she said.

Moving into the next chapter of university, Sadie is excited to begin coaching and hopes to establish a coxswain program within school rowing programs one day.  

“What I am most looking forward to is the opportunity to give back. I want to pay it forward and help other athletes achieve their dreams. I owe this to the coaches and mentors who have stood by me and believed in me,” Sadie said.

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, RA will not be sending their teams to Switzerland and Italy to compete at the 2021 World Rowing Cups (the final Olympic Qualification Regattas); instead, they will compete via World Cup Simulation Regattas. In June, Sadie will travel to Adelaide to compete in the third and final World Rowing Cup Simulation Regatta.

“I am excited I have set myself on a path for the future. I now know dreams can come true, and I’m excited for what’s to come.”