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John Regis looking to have a ball at Hoops Aid

GLITTERING CAREER: John Regis

WHEN JOHN Regis was a kid he had to battle against racism all the time. Now he’s helping today’s young athletes do likewise by playing at Hoops Aid.

A celebrity basketball game at the O2 Arena on May 10, Hoops Aid supports the Sports Traider charity which aims to remove barriers like race, background or ability which too often stop young people from taking up sport. And it’s something that is close to the former world champion sprinter’s heart.

Lewisham-born Regis, 48, quit football to focus on athletics because of the kind of racism endured on a daily basis by his cousin Cyrille, the former West Brom, Coventry and England striker.

He said: “For me, racism was a major issue. But I kept plugging away. Cyrille blazed a trail for all of us really. I encountered verbal racism all the time, but I also had to cope with not being selected for things because of the colour of my skin. But I persevered. As long as you can show you are above all that and have the potential to succeed, you will be OK.

“I used to be a good footballer but in athletics, if you win they have to select you. In football, if the manager doesn’t like you, you don’t play.

“There will still be racism, but I think charities like these do a lot to help. They are all about participation and including everyone. It shouldn’t be about skin colour. That’s the kind of standard we should all adhere to, and it’s why I support the charity.”

Regis, nicknamed Johnny Two Chests, enjoyed a glittering career as a sprinter. He was crowned European 200m champion in 1990 and won a string of other medals besides.

He was part of Great Britain’s gold medal-winning 4x400m relay team at the World Championships in Tokyo in 1991, and won Olympic silver with the 4x100m team in Seoul in 1988.

Back in his school days he could even have gone into basketball – but he’ll be grateful if he can just hit a three-point shot at the O2 on May 10.

Regis said: “My school teacher said I could have been a great basketball player but there weren’t many opportunities to go far in the sport at that time.

“There wasn’t really a professional league, so I concentrated on football, and then athletics. I played at the last Hoops Aid in 2013 and it was a great atmosphere and a lot of fun.

“Unfortunately I missed a sitter in that game so I hopefully I can do better this time. I’ve made sure I’m a lot sharper. Nimble-toes will be able to do better I’m sure. I’ve been practicing threes and if I can just hit one I’m hoping there will be a lap of honour!

“I think the charity is tremendous and I’m all for those who have, helping those who haven’t. In years gone by sport used to be a four-letter word. It’s probably why we have such obesity problems now. It’s not always about winning but about enjoying it first and foremost and I think everyone is going to enjoy Hoops Aid."

For the chance to see John Regis playing basketball against the likes of heavyweight boxer Dereck Chisora, Steve-O from Jackass, The Voice winner Jermain Jackman and Ike the Kidd from Diversity, please follow @HoopsAid.

To buy tickets call 08448 24 48 24, or visit http://bit.ly/1DOONDf

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