Published: 10:00, 27 May 2021
| Updated: 10:52, 27 May 2021
Tokyo-bound Giarnni Regini-Moran admits there were times he wondered if he’d ever make it onto sport’s greatest stage.
The 22-year-old from Gravesend suffered Olympic heartbreak five years ago before the Covid-19 pandemic put paid to his Games plans last summer.
He will make his maiden Olympic appearance at this year’s rescheduled Games after being named alongside Max Whitlock, Joe Fraser and James Hall in Team GB’s four-man men’s artistic gymnastics squad.
Three gold medals at the European Junior Championships a mere handful of weeks before Rio 2016 had seen Regini-Moran emerge as a contender for that year’s GB Olympic squad, before a shattering knee injury forced him to take two years out of the sport.
Having rediscovered his finest form in 2020 Regini-Moran’s plans were shelved for another 12 months in the wake of the Games’ postponement, meaning he could scarcely believe it when told his seat on the plane was confirmed.
“I received the phone call while I was sat by the trampoline in the gym. As soon as it ended I ran and jumped into the pit, and screamed,” said Regini-Moran, who is one of over 1,000 athletes on UK Sport’s National Lottery-funded World Class Programme.
“I almost gave up just before Rio because I didn’t see myself coming back. I remember the first time I tried to walk again properly my leg just felt like it wanted to give way.
“I thought my gymnastics career might be over. Then I’d worked so hard for Tokyo 2020 only for it be postponed last summer, and you start wondering if it’s just not meant to be.
“I didn’t really believe it was happening when I was told I’d made the team. I’ve dreamt of going to the Olympics since I was six years old, and I can’t wait to see what I can achieve now.”
The support Regini-Moran receives from UK Sport’s National Lottery-funded World Class Programme allows him to train full-time, access the world’s best coaches and benefit from pioneering technology, science and medical support.
Despite the frustration of having to wait an extra year for his Olympic chance the Dartford-based athlete will be heading to Japan on top of his game, having won European vault bronze last month - his first senior major championship medal.
While he hopes to add to the 864 Olympic and Paralympic medals won by Great Britain and Northern Ireland athletes since the advent of National Lottery funding in 1997, he credits the chance to travel to Rio five years ago as part of Team GB’s ambitions programme with fuelling his desire to get back to the top of the sport.
He added: “I went to Brazil on crutches and in a leg brace, but seeing the likes of Max [Whitlock] win two golds brought out a hunger in me.
“That’s what it took for me to realise how much I love the sport, and that I could come back from my injury.
“Since then I’ve just tried to enjoy the big occasions. When I won a silver medal at the European Games in 2019, and then at the Euros recently, I just told myself to do my job and make the most of the opportunity. Hopefully I can do that again in Tokyo.”
*No one does more to support our Olympic and Paralympic athletes than National Lottery players, who raise around £30million each week for good causes. Discover the positive impact playing the National Lottery has on sport at www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk and get involved by using the hashtags: #TNLAthletes #TracktoTokyo