John Riley rowed in college at the University of Rhode Island, and was on the US national team from 1985-96. He competed at eight World Championships in various boats, both as a sweeper and a sculler. He won a World gold in the four without in 1986, followed by a bronze in that event in 1987. Riley also won silver in the eight at the 1990 Goodwill Games. He competed at Henley in 1986 winning the Goblets and Nichols Plate in the pairs without. Riley was an 11-time national champion, and won the Head of the Charles Championships Eight in 1989 and 1991 and the singles sculls in 1995. He continued to race in mastersâ events, both at the Head of the Charles, the San Diego Crew Classic, and the Head of the Schuylkill regattas.
Riley became a rowing coach, working with the US national team from 1999-2007. He coached at the Union Boat Club in Boston from 1994-2000 and then moved to the Penn Athletic Club in Philadelphia. In 1999 John was the first rower inducted into the University of Rhode Island's Athletic Hall of Fame. He became a member of the US Rowing Hall of Fame in 1996.