British gymnast Giarnni Regini-Moran won three gold and two bronze medals at the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) in Nanjing in 2014, making him Team GB’s most decorated athlete of the competition. Now he has his eyes set on Tokyo 2020!
But for a twist of fate, Giarnni Regini-Moran would never have been in Nanjing for the Youth Olympic Games in 2014. However, an injury to a teammate earned the British gymnast a late call-up, and by the time the Closing Ceremony came around, the teenager had bagged an incredible three gold and two bronze medals.
Regini-Moran’s late selection for the YOG meant that he travelled to China with little pressure on his shoulders. And having celebrated his 16th birthday just two weeks before the Opening Ceremony, he was also one of the younger members of the team. “I went to Nanjing with no expectations at all,” he recalls. “The plan was for me to just enjoy it and gain some experience and hopefully make a couple of finals. I couldn’t believe that I was actually going, but I worked so hard in the build-up – I completely changed my lifestyle because it was such a big deal for me. At the time, I felt like it was the biggest thing I’d ever do in my life.”
The teenager made a good start to the YOG: on day one of competition, a superb qualification round meant that Regini-Moran was ranked number one going into the all-around final. “I started getting some good scores in qualification and before you knew it, I’d qualified in first place,” he says. “I was thinking, did I really just do that?!”
I couldn’t believe it - my dreams had turned into reality. I remember looking at my medal and seeing the Olympic rings and thinking, ‘wow, is this true?Giarnni Regini-Moran Team GB
One of the joys of the Athletes’ Village at an Olympic Games is the opportunity to mix with athletes from different sports and indeed, Regini-Moran’s roommate was British triathlete Ben Dijkstra, who won Team GB’s first gold medal of the Games. “The day before the all-around final, my roommate won gold,” says Regini-Moran. “I remember looking at his medal and thinking ‘that’s so nice, I really want one of my own’.”
Regini-Moran’s YOG was only to get better: another two gold medals - on the vault and floor - plus bronze in both the parallel bars and the high bar left the teenager as Team GB’s most decorated athlete of the Games.
What made the YOG so special for Regini-Moran, however, was not merely the silverware he picked up. The experience he gained and the friendships he made were what made the YOG so special for the Brit. “It was brilliant being a part of the team – I made so many good friends from so many different sports and to this day, I still talk to lots of them,” he says.
“The Village was fantastic and, with it being China, it was a great experience. One day, me and some teammates went to a relaxation room; they lay us down in a chair with Chinese music playing and we just closed our eyes and relaxed. It was so nice to have a chance to chill because the rest of the time it was go, go, go. And the YOG was the first time I’d been drug-tested, so it was good to find out what that was like. When we were getting ready to come home, I didn’t want to leave because I’d had such a good time. The whole experience was a valuable learning curve and it definitely gave me a real taste of what the senior Olympics would be like.”
In three years since the YOG, Regini-Moran’s career has been a rollercoaster. A serious knee injury derailed his ambitions of making Team GB for the Rio Olympic Games and he admits there were some real low points during his recovery. But he is now back on track and feeling positive about what’s to come. “The recovery from my injury was hard and there was a point when I thought my career was over,” he admits. “But I was watching old gym videos - things like my performances at the YOG and thought, I’m not a quitter, I’m going to come back better and stronger and I’ve had a real positive mindset ever since. So now I’m looking forward towards Tokyo 2020.”