Former sprint great John Regis turned his 45th birthday on Thursday, amazing how time flies by, so this offers a nice opportunity to stroll down memory lane and have a little look back at some of the turning points and feats of his distinguished career.
Regis was born on 13 October 1966 at lovely Lewisham, South London, and was reported to have been snatched out of the grasp of football when still an U20 back in 1985, having passed a trial with Arsenal along with late David Rocastle – later capped about 12 times with England’s senior national side. But the Londoner went on to grab bronze in 10.51 secs in the 100m at the European U20 Championships, plus gold in the short relay, which made up his mind on athletics.
Despite tasting initial success at the short dash, he soon moved up to the 200m where he was meant to establish his world-class reputation and an exceptional championships pedigree. He was agonizingly denied a world title in the last few yards of the final in Rome 1987 pipped by defending champion Calvin Smith (USA) and Gilles Queneherve (FRA) on the line having lead almost the entire straight, dipping inside Allan Well‘s then British record in 20.18 secs in the process. It was hard to eventually have to do with just bronze as gold looked in his grasp with just a few strides to go.
Regis finishes runner-up behind Frederics and ahead of waning great Carl Lewis in the 200m in Stuttgart 1993
He went one better to win silver behind great Frankie Fredericks (NAM) six years later in Stuttgart in a thrilling race where he surged under the great landmark of 20 secs for the first time in 19.94 secs, taking sole possession of the UK record he shared with Linford Christie at 20.09, before he contributed a superb leg round the top bend to set up the latter on the way to silver and a European record of 37.77 secs in the 4x100m relay.
Also, he was instrumental in Britain’s shocking victory over the Americans in the curtain-drawer of the men’s 4x400m two years earlier in Tokyo, putting in an astonishing third leg to keep anchor man Kris Akabussi in contention.
His greatest championships, nevertheless, has arguably got to be the European Championships in Split in 1990. He landed his first and sole senior international medal over 100m ever in a slightly windy 10.09 secs (2.2m/sec) before he swept to a comprehensive European title over the longer sprint in a then UK record of 20.11 secs placing plenty of daylight on his pursuing rivals, involving Christie again in third (20.33). But there was yet more to come as he earned silver with the men’s 4x100m and a second gold with the longer relay in a sub 44 secs leg.
Regis wins gold in the men’s 4x400m along with Derek Redmond, Roger Black and Kris Akabussi
Regis may lament for ever, however, never getting his hands on an Olympic individual medal and particularly when he finished a disappointing sixth in 20.32 way behind Mike Marsh (USA) in Barcelona 1992, having looked an out-and-out medal contender in the semifinals with an easy-looking equal UK record of 20.09 secs. He did win silver with the men’s 4x100m in Seoul 1988 and bronze with the men’s 4x400m in Barcelona but that will hardly sweet the pill in this perspective.
He ran under 20 secs one more time to take the British record lower to 19.87 secs at Sestiere, Italy, in 1994 which earned him top spot in the world rankings that season, a rather rare feature for a British sprinter.
His last sparkle on the international scene effectively came at the Commonwealths in 1998 where he got bronze in 20.40 secs behind a startling Julian Golding (20.18) and then World U20 champion Christian Malcolm (20.29, UK U20 record).